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Eur J Appl Physiol. 2008 Sep;104(2):303-9. doi: 10.1007/s00421-008-0693-y. Epub 2008 May 14.

Hand immersion in cold water alleviating physiological strain and increasing tolerance to uncompensable heat stress.

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Institute of Military Physiology, Heller Institute of Medical Research, Sheba Medical Center, Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, 52621, Tel Hashomer, Israel.


The current study examines the use of hand immersion in cold water to alleviate physiological strain caused by exercising in a hot climate while wearing NBC protective garments. Seventeen heat acclimated subjects wearing a semi-permeable NBC protective garment and a light bulletproof vest were exposed to a 125 min exercise-heat stress (35 degrees C, 50% RH; 5 km/h, 5% incline). The heat stress exposure routine included 5 min rest in the chamber followed by two 50:10 min work-rest cycles. During the control trial (CO), there was no intervention, whilst in the intervention condition the subjects immersed their hands and forearms in a 10 degrees C water bath (HI). The results demonstrated that hand immersion in cold water significantly reduced physiological strain. In the CO exposure during the first and second resting periods, the average rectal temperature (T (re)) practically did not decrease. With hand immersion, the mean (SD) T (re) decreased by 0.45 (0.05 degrees C) and 0.48 degrees C (0.06 degrees C) during the first and second rest periods respectively (P < 0.005). Significant decreases in skin temperature, sweat rate, heart rate, and heat storage was also noted in the HI vs. the CO trials. Tolerance time in the HI exposure were longer than in the CO exposure (only 12 subjects in the CO trial endured the entire heat exposure session, as opposed to all 17 subjects in the HI group). It is concluded that hand immersion in cold water for 10 min is an effective method for decreasing the physiological strain caused by exercising under heat stress while wearing NBC protective garments. The method is convenient, simple, and allows longer working periods in hot or contaminated areas with shorter resting periods.

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