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Effectiveness of rest pauses and cooling in alleviation of heat stress during simulated fire-fighting activity

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This study examined whether cooling a fire-fighter with a high velocity fan, during 10 min rest pauses between, and following, 10 min work periods, decreases heat stress during repetitive fire-fighting activity. Twelve professional fire-fighters (mean age 31.8 6.7 years) completed two, 40 min work/recovery trials in an environmental chamber at 40 C and 70% relative humidity (RH). One trial was termed an enhanced recovery (ER) trial and the other was termed a normal recovery (NR) trial. In both conditions subjects wore full protective clothing and breathing apparatus during the work. In the ER trial a subject removed his protective coat and sat in front of a fan during each recovery period. In the NR trial a subject merely unbuckled his coat and was not cooled by a fan during . either recovery period. The group mean metabolic cost (VO2), and the exercise and recovery heart rates were significantly lower (p 0.05) during the ER trial than in the NR condition. Group mean rectal temperature increased by 1.5 C in the NR trial but by only 0.8 C during the ER trial. The latter group's more effective cooling indicates the potential of fan cooling to reduce physiological strain and decrease the risk of heat exhaustion during repetitive fire-fighting activity. The results suggest that a fire-fighter's short 10 min exposure to heavy work in a hot environment of 40 C and 70% RH produces minimal heat stress in a healthy fire-fighter. However, a period of fire-fighting exposure greater than 10 min without adequate rest and cooling may lead to a significant accumulation of heat stress and fatigue during further fire-fighting activity, irrespective of physical prowess.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 1999

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