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Battery operated fan and chronic breathlessness: does it help?
  1. Matilda Barnes-Harris1,
  2. Victoria Allgar2,
  3. Sara Booth3,
  4. David Currow4,
  5. Simon Hart1,
  6. Jane Phillips5,
  7. Flavia Swan1 and
  8. Miriam J Johnson1
  1. 1 Wolfson Palliative Care, Hull York Medical School, Hull, UK
  2. 2 HYMS/Health Sciences, York University, York, UK
  3. 3 Department of Oncology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  4. 4 Faculty of Heath, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  5. 5 School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Technology, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Matilda Barnes-Harris, Hull York Medical School, Hull, HU6 7RX, UK; hymb13{at}


Objectives To examine whether use of a hand-held fan (‘fan’) improves breathlessness and increases physical activity.

Methods A secondary exploratory analysis using pooled data from the fan arms of two feasibility randomised controlled trials in people with chronic breathlessness: (1) fan and activity advice vs activity advice, (2) activity advice alone or with the addition or the ‘calming hand’, or the fan, or both. Descriptive statistics and regression analysis to explore patient characteristics associated with benefit (eg age, sex, diagnosis, general self-efficacy).

Results Forty-one participants were allocated the fan (73 years (IQR 65–76, range 46–88), 59% male, 20 (49%) chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), three (7%) heart failure, three (7%) cancer). Thirty-five (85%) reported that the fan helped breathing, and 22 (54%) reported increased physical activity.

Breathlessness benefit was more likely in older people, those with COPD and those with a carer. However, due to the small sample size none of these findings were statistically significant. Those with COPD were more likely to use the fan than people with other diagnoses (OR 5.94 (95% CI 0.63 to 56.21, p=0.120)).

Conclusions These exploratory data support that the fan helps chronic breathlessness in most people and adds new data to indicate that the fan is perceived to increase people’s physical activity. There is also a signal of possible particular benefits in people with COPD which is worthy of further study.

  • airflow
  • fan
  • breathlessness
  • dyspnoea
  • physical activity

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  • Contributors FS and MJJ had the concept; FS, MJJ, MB-H, VA designed the protocol; SB, DC, JP contributed to original data collection; FS, MB-H, VA conducted the analysis; all authors helped with interpretation; MB-H wrote the first draft; all authors contributed critical revision to successive drafts and agreed the final manuscript.

  • Funding The CHAFF trial was funded as part of a University of Hull PhD Studentship. The FAB trial was funded by a Hull York Medical School pump priming grant. We have added this to the funding statement.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was in place prior to recruitment for both studies and was not required for secondary analysis of anonymised data. Principal investigator approval was obtained for data sharing for each study.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.