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fan death
July 1, 2005 11:23 AM   Subscribe

Fan Death is death resulting from hypothermia or lack of oxygen, caused by the vortex that is created by an electric fan, or air conditioning in closed rooms. Strangely, it only occurs in South Korea.
posted by The Jesse Helms (52 comments total)

 
Whoa, that is weird.

From the Wikipedia article:

The myth is remarkably resilient, and is accepted even by many Korean medical professionals. In Summer, mainstream Korean news sources regularly report on cases of fan death, even if more likely causes (e.g. heart attack, gunshot, alcohol poisoning) are evident.

I find that part the strangest.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:38 AM on July 1, 2005


Fan death.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:43 AM on July 1, 2005


I'm just waiting for the CSI episode:

"Well, at first I thought the three bullets in his chest and two in his head were the cause of death. But then I noticed the fan running..."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:45 AM on July 1, 2005


I think most cultures-- and I include my own in this-- have some strange, vaguely reasonable yet un-scientific obsessions. I have heard of studies that suggest air circulation is a factor in SIDS, but the overwhelming evidence is that fans do commonly cause death.

In Russia women do not sit directly on rock or concrete, for fear of a vaginal cold. A layer of newspaper is accepted as a proper insulator by some. In France, pregnant women do eat certain kinds of salad. If there is a reason for either of these, I'd be surprised, but there still may be a glimmer of truth to these theories.

I also grimace that Russians fear drafts so much, they hesitate to open the window. That is probably because I've been conditioned to think that fresh air is vital, even to the extent that I crack the bedroom window, even in winter. Here I realize I am as irrational as Russians. He just doesn't feel safe for me to not have a draft on my when I sleep.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 11:47 AM on July 1, 2005


Fan Death? Like, Titannica's "Try Suicide"?
posted by joe lisboa at 12:04 PM on July 1, 2005


Well, apparently there is something special about the physiology of Koreans, as otherwise I would be dead.

Since I was a teenager, I have always slept with a fan blowing, for the white noise. The door has often been closed. I know for a fact that I have slept many, many nights with a fan blowing on my face, in a room with closed doors and windows.

So I have all three factors: the "suffocation" effect of the wind on the face, the hypothermia effect of the fan blowing on my body, and the lack of oxygen from a fan in a closed room.

And yet, I still live. Sorry Korea, this is just nonsense.

Which is not to pick on Koreans: it amazing the stupid things people can believe when an entire group supports the inane belief. Humanity is rife with such bullshit irrational beliefs.

It's not unique to Korea. I wonder what foibles are peculiar to America?
posted by teece at 12:04 PM on July 1, 2005


thank jehovah it doesn't appear to happen in the southwestern US or I would have died as a child.
posted by birdherder at 12:07 PM on July 1, 2005


By sheer coincidence, I was reading about fan death this morning. I thought the most amusing theory is the one claiming fans create a vacuum that suffocates the sleeper.

I often sleep with the fan on on hot summer nights. I did catch a nasty cold last month, but as far as I can tell, I'm still alive.
posted by Goblindegook at 12:15 PM on July 1, 2005


CSI...or Myth Busters?
posted by artifarce at 12:15 PM on July 1, 2005


I'm thinking someone should send this one over to the Mythbusters team. I'm sure they'd love to debunk this one in, oh, 5 seconds flat.

Eaaaasy money.
posted by vanadium at 12:20 PM on July 1, 2005


see also: koro
posted by docpops at 12:50 PM on July 1, 2005


it amazing the stupid things people can believe when an entire group supports the inane belief. Humanity is rife with such bullshit irrational beliefs.
Yeah ... how about in September 2003 "...seven in 10 Americans...believe[d] that Iraq's Saddam Hussein had a role in the attacks [of September 11, 2001]?"
posted by ericb at 1:11 PM on July 1, 2005


Paging Stavros...
posted by shoepal at 1:22 PM on July 1, 2005


even if more likely causes (e.g. heart attack, gunshot, alcohol poisoning) are evident.

where's Monty Python when you need them?
posted by matteo at 1:26 PM on July 1, 2005


Well this explains my SO's (she was raised in Korea) obsession with turning off the ceiling fans at night. I've tried for 10 years to explain in all rational terms I could that if you had the ceiling fans on, the upstairs would not be so hot.
Now I know why I could never convince her ... thanks MeFi!
posted by forforf at 1:33 PM on July 1, 2005


OK, first let me say this: I do not believe that sleeping in a room with fans running can kill you (and why couldn't a fan suffocate you while you were awake?).

but....

I admit, I do find it uncomfortable to breathe with a fan blowing in my face. It does *feel* like the I can't "catch" air cause it just blows by and I don't get it. At night I point the fan so there's hardly any wind in my face. I'm probably not the only one with this discomfort and that may be where the myth comes from.
posted by duck at 2:06 PM on July 1, 2005


I hear that if you turn on a fan to blow in your face and eat a packet of Pop Rocks and then drink a Coke really fast while standing on one foot and then say "Candyman" five times, you'll look like an idiot.
posted by fenriq at 2:11 PM on July 1, 2005


teece wrote: Since I was a teenager, I have always slept with a fan blowing, for the white noise. The door has often been closed. I know for a fact that I have slept many, many nights with a fan blowing on my face, in a room with closed doors and windows.

Fan Sleepers Unite! ::pumps fist in air:: I've been sleeping with a fan on since I was old enough to force the issue. There's lots of us out there. For me, it's not just the white noise, but also the air movement on my face (perhaps a throwback to the womb and its ever-circulating amniotic fluid?).

Pros: Keep cool, sleep though the black helicopter flyovers
Cons: Dry sinuses, divorce (though my wife is a convert, thank the maker).
posted by retronic at 2:15 PM on July 1, 2005


gesamtkunstwerk, the no salads for pregnant women rule in France is due to the country's prevalance of toxomplasmosis, which is mostly transmitted through contaminated raw vegetables.
posted by occhiblu at 2:22 PM on July 1, 2005


OK, that explains the salad thing. So what's the deal with vaginal colds?
posted by aramaic at 2:24 PM on July 1, 2005


I died from fan-related suffocation once. It suuuuuuuucked!
posted by ford and the prefects at 2:30 PM on July 1, 2005


aramaic, vaginas have a very delicate balance of flora, and many things, including temperature, can disrupt that. I know it sounds like a long shot, but as an owner of a fickle cunt, I can tell you that I understand completely why a lady wouldn't want to chill her vagina.

Plus, it would be uncomfortable, and cold stimulates my menstrual cramps.
posted by Specklet at 3:12 PM on July 1, 2005


I almost require a fan blowing on me to sleep at night. And we regularly close the door to keep the cat out. I've been doing this for years and I'm not d
posted by Foosnark at 3:29 PM on July 1, 2005


I've been doing this for years and I'm not d

*keels over before he could finish typing the word*
posted by ericb at 3:38 PM on July 1, 2005


Specklet has a way with words.
posted by NinjaPirate at 3:44 PM on July 1, 2005


I've never heard this.

But then I've learned a lot of new things since moving to the South...the South of the United States. In particular my husband's mother had many common myths she impressed on her children. Just yesterday I heard two concerning lightening. Lightening is attracted to dogs, so dogs were not allowed on the porch when my husband was young. Also he was not allowed to take a shower during storms because the electricity from the thunder might follow the water through the pipes and electrocute him.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:51 PM on July 1, 2005


gesamtkunstwerk writes "In France, pregnant women do eat certain kinds of salad."

I remember reading about lettuce concentrate -- although it would have to be REALLY concentrated -- being an abortifacent.

Vaginal colds? would this involve vaginal sneezing as well? I wonder what that would sound like.
posted by clevershark at 3:59 PM on July 1, 2005


Korean fan death does seem as ridiculous as the (US only?) belief that plants and even cut flowers must be removed from hospital patients' rooms at night lest they suck up all the oxygen, but it might have a grain of truth in it, at least when it's hot out. A fan alone is not gonna keep you from being convection-ovened to death as you sleep in a heat wave if you're too ill and/or drunk to move. Of course this doesn't stop various charitable organizations from distributing box fans when the temp gets over 100. Signed, another heedless white-noise fan sleeper.
posted by ellanea at 4:19 PM on July 1, 2005


I suppose Christianity would probably seem like a mass psychosis to a truly impartial observer. The book is right, the argument goes, because a lot of other people believe it, and THEY believe it because a lot of other people believe it. Therefore, it must be true!

Metafilter: Christianity is just like fan death.

:-)
posted by Malor at 5:25 PM on July 1, 2005


Hmmmm. My favored graduation gift to all my cousins is a href="http://www.vornado.com/"> fan. Despite being made in Wichita KS, perhaps I have alterior motives? hahahahahA!
posted by buzzman at 5:25 PM on July 1, 2005


plants and even cut flowers must be removed from hospital patients' rooms at night lest they suck up all the oxygen

Huh? That'd be ridiculous even if plants didn't produce O2. Anyhow, what other weird beliefs like this have been sighted in America?
posted by squidlarkin at 5:31 PM on July 1, 2005


I also grimace that Russians fear drafts so much, they hesitate to open the window.

I'm very curious as to what word you meant in place of "grimace."

SLoG: maybe it's nothing to do with electrocution, and everything to do with it tracking mud back into the house.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:45 PM on July 1, 2005


I remember hearing this from my Korean parents on a regular basis when I was a child. Until now, I thought they made this story up in a joint scheme to save money on electricity.

It has given me a firm dislike of direct wind - can't stand the feel against my skin. Don't mind indirect breezes, but fans just bug me.

Nice to know it's a cultural quirk, works better for me than just being weird about fans :)
posted by avowel at 5:48 PM on July 1, 2005


Way back, right before the Cecil article was posted, folks on alt.fan.cecil-adams, including myself, discussed this.

Seems that the theories haven't changed much in 8 years...
posted by tomierna at 5:54 PM on July 1, 2005


A moment of silence for all those who have died from this horrible calamity. [A "." will be deleted, trust me.]
posted by caddis at 5:57 PM on July 1, 2005


hey, if Korean medical pros opt for fan death as a cause of death even when gunshot wounds are present, could it be that fan death serves some sociological purpose, by, for example, providing a reason not to conduct an autopsy or protecting the bereaved's family from either or both stigma or investigation?
posted by mwhybark at 7:27 PM on July 1, 2005


The belief that getting cold (or worse, cold and wet) will cause one to catch a cold is a superstition I remember many adults propagating when I was a child. Granted, hypothermia is bad but roughhousing in the rain isn't going to cause a case of the sniffles.
posted by rhiannon at 7:39 PM on July 1, 2005


I read an article about 'fan death' several years ago; However, I've never heard of the 'cut flowers in hospital rooms' theory.
I had a Russian friend a few years back who was convinced that Vodka - drunk or applied - was a cure-all. I have my doubts on that one.....*gag*
posted by Radio7 at 9:09 PM on July 1, 2005


squidlarkin writes "Huh? That'd be ridiculous even if plants didn't produce O2."

Whereas in daylight conditions plants produce O2, when there is no light (such as at night) plants absorb O2.

Not in amounts that would cause people in the room to become starved for oxygen (nowhere near, in fact) but a belief system (BS) is a belief system...
posted by clevershark at 9:59 PM on July 1, 2005


It's not unique to Korea. I wonder what foibles are peculiar to America?

mmm... fructose-phobia?
posted by delmoi at 10:24 PM on July 1, 2005


Also he was not allowed to take a shower during storms because the electricity from the thunder might follow the water through the pipes and electrocute him.

This is actually true, they did an episode of mythbusters where they built a whole up-to-code section of a house with a shower, and put the whole thing in this giant lightning generator. The electricity arced several feet between the wires and the pipes in a pretty dramatic fashion.
posted by delmoi at 10:34 PM on July 1, 2005


Can anyone explain the "fan makes convection oven" thing? Because I keep hearing it, but I don't get it.
posted by dame at 10:50 PM on July 1, 2005


circulates the heat back down to the sleeper, cooking him to death.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:57 PM on July 1, 2005


Wait, no. I'm really physics stupid. Can you draw a picture?
posted by dame at 11:03 PM on July 1, 2005


Well I can explain the physics with a picture if you'd like.

First we draw a nice little loopy shape like so:

B

Then follow that with "ullshit."
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:34 AM on July 2, 2005 [1 favorite]


those oscillating fans always creep me out. it's like they scan the room, seeking victims.
posted by quonsar at 4:59 AM on July 2, 2005 [2 favorites]


Sounds like a good premise for an Asian horror movie: The Oscillating Fan of Death!
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:13 AM on July 2, 2005


twelvetwo wins
posted by mr.marx at 8:02 AM on July 2, 2005


and then say "Candyman" five times...
*bursts through the mirror*
Someone call me?
Oh, Candyman. Sorry.

Odd idea. Nonsensical, but it's strange that it's the reverse in microgravity (orbit). You need to pick a spot in the capsule near a ventilator fan. Warm air doesn't rise in space so astronauts sleeping in a badly-ventilated spot end up surrounded by a bubble of their own exhaled carbon dioxide and they can get oxygen starved.
It would be bizzare if you got a vortex vacuum in a room with a fan, but you'd have about 10 to 12 seconds to escape.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:00 AM on July 2, 2005


ellanea, I actually read an article a while ago about how a lot of plants in a dark room with very little circulation or almost air tight can kill you. I think the reasoning was that it took in more oxygen then it produced but I could be wrong. Although the superstition does go a bit far, but it is based on some truth.
posted by vodkadin at 8:12 PM on July 2, 2005


dame: Maybe the idea is that in a fanless room, the hot air would rise, and the sleeper would be in slightly cooler air. I don't think the convention-oven theory really holds water, though.

Re fan death, my favorite theory is that originally, you weren't supposed to leave a lamp, or mosquito incense, or something, burning in a sealed room, for fear of monoxide/smoke poisoning. This prohibition got transferred to electric lights and electric fans even though they don't have that problem.

Or maybe it's just one of those bizarre things like throwing salt over your shoulder.
posted by hattifattener at 12:40 AM on July 3, 2005


Lordy, how did I miss this thread?

This is one of Those Things in Korea, those inexplicable, utterly random, Scientology-grade goofy beliefs that everyone seems to have, but when pressed, are unable to explain in anything like a satisfactory way.

There are many many of Those Things, and I resolved years ago not to get overly rational about them, because I'd go totally bugshit.

Or even more bugshit than I already am.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:32 AM on July 17, 2005


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