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Ind Health. 2006 Jul;44(3):331-44.

Challenges to temperature regulation when working in hot environments.

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  • 1Human Performance Laboratories, School of Health Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia.


The focus of this review is upon acute exposure to hot environments and the accompanying physiological changes. The target audience includes physiologists, physicians and occupational health and safety practitioners. Using the principles of thermodynamics, the avenues for human heat exchange are explored, leading to an evaluation of some methods used to assess thermally-stressful environments. In particular, there is a critique of the wet-bulb globe temperature (WBGT) index, and an overview of an alternative means by which such assessments may be undertaken (the heat stress index). These principles and methods are combined to illustrate how one may evaluate the risk of heat illness. Three general areas of research are briefly reviewed: the physiological impact of wearing thermal protective clothing, heat adaptation (acclimation) and whole-body pre-cooling. These topics are considered as potential pre-exposure techniques that may be used to reduce the threat of hyperthermia, or to enhance work performance in the heat.

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