Sunday, May 6, 2012

Something New To Worry About: Fan Death



Spring has finally sprung in Seoul.  More correctly, Winter has given way to Summer, because it seems like we've gone from being miserably cold to being miserably hot within the space of just a week or two.  We're not quite ready yet to pay for turn on the air conditioning, so MrLogical and I went out last weekend (after all of Son#2's musical performances - and my corresponding food responsibilities - were over forever and ever, Amen and Amen) and bought a couple of oscillating floor fans to keep the air circulating (especially at night while we were sleeping) in the apartment.

I had long been curious about the fact that - given that electricity is so expensive in Seoul - none of the apartments we had looked at had ceiling fans.  The ceiling fan is ubiquitous in homes in many parts of America;  in the case of cooling,they are less expensive to run than air conditioning, and can also be used in the winter to circulate warm air.  Why the Seoulites - usually so practical and thrifty - had not figured this out yet was puzzling.

And then I learned about fan death.


That's right.  Death by fan.  Electric fans, to be precise.  And not in the evil-criminal-pushes- innocent-victim-into-sharp-whirling-blades-and-makes-hamburger sort of way.  Nothing nearly that dramatic.

As it turns out, 'fan death' - according to those in Korea who believe in it -occurs when an individual goes to sleep in a room with an electric fan in a room with a closed door and windows.  The fan then, by some mysterious process not understood by me (or scientists), is believed to either suck out all the oxygen from the room, or thin it, or freeze it or something, and the individual who goes to sleep in a bedroom with an electric fan running risks waking up dead.

For this reason, electric fans in Korea are always equipped with a timer (so you don't leave them running all night and accidentally do yourself in) and also often include a safety warning:

Image from Source

If you are questioning MsCaroline's veracity, and possibly considering that she has fabricated this theory just to spice up her occasionally dull  blog, let her direct your attention to this article in Wikipedia and doubt her word no more.  She'll accept your apologies when you're finished reading.


After MsCaroline - who is nothing if not fair-minded - first heard about this concept, she did some more reading on this topic besides just the Wikipedia article, and found a number of blogs, as well as this article at Snopes.com, that scoffed at the concept of fan death.  However, there was at least one blogger who - while admitting that fan death was indeed a rare occurrence - went into a complex explanation of exactly how a person could theoretically die from 'fan death' if conditions were exactly right.  MsCaroline, who studied the Liberal Arts at University (and would be happy to discuss the Romantic movement in German literature with you at length if you're interested) puzzled over all of the scientific explanations - and their counter-explanations - and decided that they all sounded completely plausible to her.  (This is mostly because as soon as the discussion started including concepts like 'air convection' ' heat transfer' 'hyperthermia' and 'airflow,' MsCaroline lost interest and began thinking about Goethe, and - what with one thing and another - didn't really get the gist of either argument.)

MrLogical - who has an Engineering degree and therefore understands heat transfer - scoffed and tried to explain - using small words and simple concepts - just why these arguments were so improbable, but MsCaroline (who, again, wasn't really paying attention) remained unconvinced (and, if truth be told, slightly intrigued.)

Besides - it makes a nice change from worrying about North Korea.

Always a silver lining, right?














18 comments:

Stacy said...

Ya know what?!! We don't have ceiling fans in our house in Egypt either and I couldn't figure out why. After Kuala Lumpur where every room had one, sometimes two, it was a puzzler. This could well be the reason! I understand that when summer comes full on, there are stores that sell them but possibly only to us ignorant expats who have cheated death thus far by sheer luck. :)

MsCaroline said...

Stacy - you could be right! I don't know how widespread the belief is, but after this, nothing surprises me. It reminds me a little of when I was in high school in Germany and older people on the train would insist that the windows be shut - even though it was absolutely stifling in the car. They all believed sincerely that sitting in a draft of any kind was horribly dangerous for your health. I suppose if you grow up hearing it from every side, it's just ingrained, even if logic tells you otherwise...

Stacy said...

My grandmothers believed (one is still kicking at 98 so probably still believes) that sleeping with a fan blowing on your face can cause palsy or paralysis of the face muscles, what they called Bell's Palsy. We were not allowed to sleep with standing fans blowing on the bed. Once they got ceiling fans, though, I guess they figured it wasn't a direct stream of air so we could sleep with the ceiling fans on. My maternal grandmother always used to caution me not to let my small daughters out when it was windy. She firmly believed that caused the croup. I haven't thought about that in ages. I guess the anti-wind bias goes way back and is worldwide.

MsCaroline said...

Stacy - you're right, it probably is generational, too. I remember talking to older women when my babies were small and they all seemed concerned that I didn't have hats on them all the time - even when it was warm!

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

My grandmother was always trying to get me to wear a hat and wouldn't go out herself without one on. As this was the sixties and early seventies and I was trying to look cool I would never comply.

Holly said...

Ummm... my children have ceiling fans in their bedrooms and they SLEEP WITH THEM ON. I need an electrician PRONTO to come install timers on them. Would I take chances with the lives of my precious babies? I think not!

Holly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BavarianSojourn said...

Fan Death is a new one on me! That's hilarious! Talking of cold Germans. I learned this week that they never have bare feet (hence with often sniggered at) socks with sandals look, because cold feet can also make you sick. I am glad there is a reason behind it! :)

Wilma said...

I guess this is right up there with the fact that you can't allow a cat into the crib with the baby because it will take the child's breath. As far as fans go, I've never heard of fan death but we know better than to have them directly on you because you will wake up with a stiff neck or sore back, depending on which area they were hitting. :)

Stacy, I have been told not to drive with the car window down because it will cause Bell's Palsy. Realize, I live in AZ so the breeze coming in the window is nowhere near cold. Must just be the wind itself. Incidentally, I'm 47 and always drive with the windows down and have never gotten it. Neither has husband and he's 49. LOL

Karen said...

Never, ever heard of fan death!!! Does that mean that now that I know about it, it will happen to me? I'm sure I have slept in closed rooms with fans many times and never had a problem. Wow!! I'm pretty stunned that this is believed to the point where warning messages are printed about it. Wonder what the criteria for requiring/allowing warning messages is (are?) in South Korea. Yeah...it is "are." What are the criteria in the US for that matter? Lofty questions that I would like to explore but think I will finish getting dinner and apply for some loans first! Seems so much more practical....

MsCaroline said...

Elizabeth - Definitely must have been a generational thing. I suppose people who were brought up believing it was the height of rudeness to leave the house without a hat on their heads may have had some trouble adjusting to the idea that no one was wearing them much at all anymore. I suppose I'm sort of the same way when it comes to younger persons who walk around with their underclothes (bra straps, thongs, boxer shorts)sticking out. Of course, I'm not worried about their health!

MsCaroline said...

Holly - unbelievable that the children have survived thus far, isn't it! xxx my friend!

MsCaroline said...

Emma- I had no idea that was the reason, although I've always wondered why that was so prevalent! My coworkers in Seoul don't seem to follow that much, though: lots of sandals without socks...must be that foreign influence...or maybe just the foreign climate!

MsCaroline said...

Wilma - we haven't ever had that, either! Just lucky, I guess. ; )

MsCaroline said...

Karen - some of the articles I read said that the warnings surfaced in the 70s when the country started experiencing energy shortages - some people suspected it might be an attempt to get people to cut back on energy use..

Trish @ Mums Gone To... said...

How very strange. So who are you going to believe - the Koreans or Mr Logical?
Having a chuckle at the comments: our parents and grandparents have a lot to answer for, making us neurotic!

MsCaroline said...

Trish - Yes, yes, I believe MrLogical...I suppose next you'll be telling me that Dougie didn't learn about fan death in medical school, either! When I wrote this post, I actually had some of those old standbys in mind that I grew up hearing - no swimming for half an hour after eating, don't go to bed with wet hair, don't swallow chewing gum (it never digests) and the like. Fan death, of course, is a little more extreme...

About Last Weekend said...

Funnily enough I'm not an anxious person but I do have free floating anxieties about fans...this doesn't surprise me at all that they come with poltegeisty bad stuff.