[KS] Fan Death / Bell's Palsy

David Kosofsky kayaksky at yahoo.com
Sun Sep 17 19:30:50 EDT 2006

While I share in the amusement and bemusement of other list-members who have encountered the peculiar Korean ethno-pathophysiology of Fan Death, my response to the issue of cold drafts and Bell's palsy (as mentioned by Mark Peterson) is a bit different.
  To being with, unlike the business of Fan Death, the origins of the Korean association of cold drafts with Bell's palsy is anything but obscure.  It is the canonical wisdom of the system of traditional medicine practiced and taught in China and Korea.  Indeed, the etiological role of `wind' in Bell's palsy is explicit in the term used for the disease: `Zhong Feng' in Chinese; Chung P'ung in Korean.
  To save you a minute or two of googling:
"Bell's Palsy is known as Zhong Feng and translates as Wind Attack. It is categorised as External Wind Stroke attack with the main pattern differentiation being Wind invasion due to emptiness of the Channels (Maclean and Lyttleton 1998). Wind is thought to take advantage of the vacuity to enter the body and attack the sinews and vessels in the area of the face. This results in Qi and Blood stagnation causing the inability of flesh to relax or contract (Wolfe 2003). 
  Symptoms of Interior Wind include paralysis (Wind-stroke).  External Wind causes facial paralysis (Bells Palsy) or simply neck stiffness.  In Chinese Medicine there is a saying “Sudden rigidity is due to Wind”.  
  And should you doubt that this theoretical framework is still in place when modern, urban Koreans talk and think about matters cardiovascular and neurological, take a look at "Perspectives of Stroke in Persons Living in Seoul, South Korea: A Survey of 1000 Subjects," at  http://stroke.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/full/strokeaha;28/6/1165  
  where 1,000 Seoulites, in telephone interviews, were asked to list what they regarded as risk factors for stroke.  The seventh most commonly noted factor was `coldness or cold wind," which ranked ahead of both alcohol and cigarette smoking.  As the authors wrote:
    "Of particular interest in this respect was that coldness or cold wind was ranked as a relatively important risk factor for stroke. Although cold weather is indeed related to frequent occurrence of stroke, coldness itself has never been considered as a major risk factor in western literature. On the other hand, traditional medicine has taught that coldness, especially cold wind, should be avoided to prevent stroke. It is noteworthy that the Chinese character Poong, which is nearly equivalent to "stroke," actually means wind."  "
  The second point I would make is that the notion that cold wind on the face can cause Bell's palsy is not confined to traditional East Asian medical theories.  Although the Western medical consensus has come to regard viral pathogenesis (specifically Herpes) as the chief culprit, it is still agreed that the question of etiology has not been fully answered, and many other factors are suspected.  Among those, cold drafts remain high on the list.  
  In fact a quick google yields this list   http://www.healthyroads.com/mylibrary/data/ash_ref/htm/art_bellspalsy.asp where `exposure to cold drafts' ranks third:
  " Present evidence connects the reactivated herpes simplex virus as the causative agent in the majority of cases diagnosed as Bell's palsy.  Bell's palsy is also thought to occur as a result of one or more of the factors listed below. 
  Diseases of the nervous system (e.g., multiple sclerosis, diabetes) 
  Emotional trauma 
  Exposure to cold drafts 
  Facial nerve ischemia (temporary lack of blood supply) 
  Infections of the ear or face 
  Lyme disease 
  Metabolic factors (pregnancy) 
  Narrowing of the fallopian canal within the skull housing the facial nerve 
  Physical trauma (e.g., birth trauma, skull base fractures, facial injuries, middle ear injuries, or surgical trauma) 
  Post-surgical complications following removal of a brain tumor (e.g., acoustic neuroma) 
  Toxic exposure (e.g., alcoholism, carbon monoxide poisoning) 
  Tumors of the face (e.g., parotid gland) or upper throat/skull/ear (e.g., acoustic  neuroma, schwannoma, cholesteatoma, glomus tumors) 
  Finally, I would point out that while the viral-pathogenesis theory of Bell's palsy currently holds sway in Western medical circles, it wasn't all that long ago that American sang-shik embraced the cold-draft theory. My own maternal grandfather, Otto Goldstein (of fond memory), drove a delivery truck for a laundry during the 1930s.  He suffered a bout of Bell's palsy (sinister side) that his doctor attributed to frequent exposure to chilly New York winds whipping through the truck window.  
  Cross-cultural observations and ridicule aside, I happily sleep in a room with a running fan (yes, only after fending off the objections of my Korean wife), but I definitely avoid letting it blow directly on my face.
  David Kosofsky
  Athens, GA  
koreanstudies-request at koreaweb.ws wrote:

Message: 1
Date: Sat, 16 Sep 2006 00:24:15 -0600
From: Mark Peterson 
Subject: Re: [KS] Origin of Fan Death?
To: Korean Studies Discussion List 
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=EUC-KR; delsp=yes; format=flowed

This is just too good.

Not only is there fan death, but there is such a thing as fan 
paralysis. One of my friends in the late 60's woke up one morning 
with Bell's palsy -- a condition where one is temporarily paralyzed 
on one half of one's face. So, the result is a kind of a cartoon 
caricature of one's face, where if you smile, only one side of the 
smile lifts the corners of your mouth -- the other side of the face 
remains emotionless. The temporary nature of the ailment offers 
hope, but "termporary" can mean months and even years.

Well, my friend woke up with it, and one of the first questions was, 
"did he sleep under a fan?" And he had. So, there you have it!

A related concern -- and I think this is all a matter of good qi and 
good balance of yin and yang -- is the matter of pregnant women 
wearing sleeveless blouses or other skimpy apparel even in the 
hottest days of summer. This is not to be done, because it will 
cause problems for the baby.

The latter belief may have waned in recent years. I don't know. But 
I think the fan and aircon causing Bell's palsy and other ailments, 
is still a concern.

Mark Peterson

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