Effect of a personal ambient ventilation system on physiological strain during heat stress wearing a ballistic vest

A Hadid, R Yanovich, T Erlich, G Khomenok, D S Moran
European Journal of Applied Physiology 2008, 104 (2): 311-9
The present study was conducted in order to evaluate whether physiological strain is alleviated by a new personal cooling system (CS) consisting of a layered vest and integrated blower that generate a flow of air. Twelve male volunteers were exposed to climatic conditions of 40 degrees C, 40%RH (40/40), and 35 degrees C, 60%RH (35/60) during a 115 min exercise routine, followed by 70 min resting recovery, while wearing a battle dress uniform (BDU) and a ballistic vest, with (COOL) or without (NOCOOL) CS. The CS was able to attenuate the physiological strain levels during exercise, when compared to identical exposures without the CS. Temperature elevation, (DeltaT (re)) after 100 min of exercise, was lower by 0.26 +/- 0.20 and 0.34 +/- 0.21 degrees C in 40/40 and 35/60, respectively, (p < 0.05). Mean skin temperature (T(sk)) was lower by 0.9 +/- 0.4 and 0.6 +/- 0.5 degrees C for 40/40 and 35/60, respectively. Heart rate (HR) was not significantly different for COOL versus NOCOOL for 40/40. At 35/60, HR was lower by 10 beats per min (bpm) (p < 0.05). Physiological strain index (PSI) was 9 and 21% lower for the 40/40 and 35/60, respectively, for COOL versus NOCOOL (p < 0.05). Heat storage (S) rates were 19 and 24% lower and sweat rates were 21 and 25% lower for the 40/40 and 35/60, respectively, for COOL versus NOCOOL (p < 0.05). However, the CS was not effective in alleviating physiological strain during resting recovery with no difference in T (re) cooling rate, S, or HR drop rate between groups over resting recovery periods. The CS tested in this study was found to be an effective tool for lowering physiological strain while exercising but not during resting recovery. Therefore, the CS should be further developed in order to achieve greater attenuation of the thermal strain during exercise and improve effectiveness during rest. Overall, it has the potential to be useful for both military and sports personnel.

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