Research has shown that a cool draught of air from a handheld fan can be very helpful in reducing the feeling of breathlessness. Here’s our guide to making the most of them.

Handheld fans can provide short-term relief if you are struggling with your breathing. When cool air goes in through your nose, receptors in your nose send a signal to your brain that reduces the sensation of breathlessness.

They can be useful after you have done activities which make you breathless, such as climbing the stairs, and provide relief in situations where being breathless causes you to panic. The time you take to get your breath back after physical activity can be shorter if you use a handheld fan. In a 133-person study carried out in 2017, 72 per cent of participants found some benefit and 11 per cent found substantial benefit from handheld fan use.

Using the fan

When looking to buy a fan, it’s important to make sure it has three or more blades, as these fans provide a stronger airflow, so they are more effective.

  • Get into a comfortable position such as sitting in a chair or leaning on a work surface when standing.
  • Hold your fan approximately six inches (15cm) away from your face.
  • Aim the draught of air towards the central part of your face so that you feel the draught around the sides of your nose and above your top lip.

Some people have to use the fan for just one minute before they feel their breathlessness ease; for others it may take up to ten minutes. There is no limit to the amount of time you can spend using the fan, and it can be used at the same time as nasal oxygen.

It should be noted that using a handheld fan does not replace breathing exercises or other techniques taught by your physiotherapist to manage your breathlessness effectively. You should continue to practise these techniques so that you don’t become too reliant on the fan, for example if you forget to take it out with you or the batteries run out.

Dr Janelle Yorke, Professor of Nursing at The University of Manchester, told Emphasis: “The advantage of a handheld fan is that you can take it with you wherever you go. It’s a very easy and cheap method of getting a cool flow of air across your face.

“When patients feel breathless they often want to open a window to get that instant fresh air, but using a handheld fan simulates that in any environment.”

PHA UK branded handheld fans are available for just £3.99. Click here to order online with free P&P.