If you struggle with breathlessness, are you aware that using a fan can reduce your symptoms?! There’s mounting evidence out there about how fan therapy can help with breathlessness in people with lung diseases such as COPD and bronchiectasis. 

A closer look at breathlessness

We’re often told by breathless patients that their symptoms worsen if the air is stuffy or when it is hot. The prospect of using the tube is their worst nightmare so it makes sense that a fan / open window helps them.

Fan therapy for breathlessness

Why does fan therapy help?!

There’s actually both a physiological and a psychological reason. Physiologically, when cool, fresh, moving air moves over the trigeminal nerve (which covers the nose, lips and side of the face) it can reduce that feeling of breathlessness. But this respite in symptoms can have a big psychological impact on you too, helping you feel like you have a bit more control of your breathlessness – that it’s not controlling you quite as much.

It’s completely safe to do and you can use the fan for as long as you like – just make sure you keep it at a safe distance from your face.

What’s the best position for fan therapy?

  • The recommendation is to use a handheld fan but you can also use a desktop or floor standing one. Fans with three or more rotating blades seem to be the most effective as the airflow is stronger.
  • Make sure you’re in a comfortable position – try sitting in a chair with your back supported and lean forward whilst sitting, or you can stand up and lean on a work surface.  If these positions don’t work for you then our respiratory physiotherapists can recommend other positions that may be helpful.
  • Position your fan about six inches or 15 cm away from your face.
  • Try to aim the draft 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. This will ensure the air is hitting that trigeminal nerve.
  • You should begin to feel the benefits within a few minutes.

How do I know if fan therapy has helped my breathlessness?

You should be able to feel the difference yourself – your symptoms will be improved and you don’t feel as breathless.

But you can also assess how effective it’s been by keeping a diary of how you feel whenever you use it. You can monitor the level of breathlessness according to the Borg scale:

Borg scale

Using your fan is just one tool in your armoury against breathlessness. You should also continue to use the techniques and/or breathing exercises taught by your physiotherapist to manage your breathlessness effectively.

Other methods to help with breathlessness

There are some other tools that you can use to help with your breathlessness:

Practice breathing control click on the image below and follow the steps on how to perform these exercises:

breathing control

Practice pacing this is where you pace your activities so that you don’t over exert yourself and become breathless. Learn more about what pacing is and how to perform it here.

Speak to our team

We are experts in assessing and treating breathing problems and can provide this successfully over video call or face to face in one of our clinics in London.  The tailored treatment plan you receive from your physiotherapist will help optimise your breathing so that you can gain greater control over your breathlessness.

Get in touch with us today to find out more – give us a call on 0207 971 1464 or send us an email.