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How consumers stay cool during the summer could affect their risk of catching COVID-19

Researchers say many consumers need to reconsider how they handle rising temperatures

Photo (c) Brankospejs - Getty Images
Although experts have found that warmer weather could slightly slow the spread of COVID-19, a new study suggests that the risk of infection may increase with rising temperatures because of the way that consumers choose to stay cool. 

According to researchers from the University of Sydney, taking advantage of public places with air conditioning is much riskier in the midst of the pandemic. However, the researchers discovered that an electric fan is a viable option to stay cool and healthy this summer. 

“Authorities have acknowledged that the usual strategies recommended to protect individuals from heat-related illness such as seeking refuge in air-conditioned places, including dedicated cooling centers or shopping malls, risks further transmission of the virus,” said researcher Ollie Jay. “We also know that many of those who are most at risk of COVID-19 are those also at risk of heat-related illness, such as the elderly and those with cardiovascular or respiratory conditions.” 

Staying cool this summer 

To understand how the increasing summer heat could affect the spread of COVID-19, the researchers analyzed 105 major cities across the U.S. and determined how current cooling systems fare in the highest temperatures. Heat-related illnesses and the coronavirus are certainly causes for concern, so the researchers wanted to figure out how consumers could beat the heat and reduce their risk of developing COVID-19. 

Though air conditioning isn’t available to all consumers, the researchers wanted to assess how electric fans, combined with frequently applying cool water to the skin, holds up in the summer heat. The researchers looked back on two decades worth of data to see how effective this cooling method was on a wide variety of hot summer days. 

They learned that the majority of consumers in major cities across the country could experience sufficient cooling using this method of an electric fan and cool water applications. In the last 20 years, just an electric fan would have sufficed in over 75 percent of the cities that were analyzed for this study. 

They did discover that this method wasn’t foolproof in cities that regularly see the highest temperatures. However, in contrast to traditional public health advice, the researchers found that the majority of consumers would be able to stay at home -- and stay cool -- with an electric fan. 

Staying cool and healthy during the pandemic

Rising temperatures affect everyone differently, and there are health risks associated with periods of extreme heat. That’s why it’s important for consumers to listen to their bodies and do what’s best for them. However, during a time when experts are urging consumers to stay home and avoid public places, these findings highlight a way to stay both cool and healthy this summer.

“There is an urgent need for low-cost, accessible cooling strategies to protect the most vulnerable from heat-related illness and the spread of SARS-COV-2,” said Jay. “Our study challenges the outdated public health advice suggesting that fans are not beneficial in extreme heat.” 

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