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Personal protective equipment (PPE) provides health care workers with a barrier to prevent human contact with viruses like Ebola and potential transmission of the disease. However, PPE can also introduce an additional physiological burden from potentially increased heat stress. This study evaluated the human physiological and subjective responses to continuous light exercise within environmental conditions similar to those in West Africa while wearing 3 different, commonly used PPE ensembles (E1, E2, and E3).
Six healthy individuals were tested in an environmental chamber (32°C, 92% relative humidity) while walking (3 METs, 2.5 mph, 0% incline) on a treadmill for 60 minutes. All subjects wore medical scrubs and PPE items. E1 also had a face shield and fluid-resistant surgical gown; E2 additionally included goggles, coverall, and separate hood; and E3 also contained a highly impermeable coverall, separate hood, and surgical mask cover over the N95 respirator.
Heart rate and core temperature at the end of the exercise were significantly higher for E2 and E3 than for E1. Subjective perceptions of heat and exertion were significantly higher for E2 and E3 than for E1.
Heat stress and PPE training, as well as the implementation of a work-to-rest ratio that avoids dehydration and possible heat stress issues, are recommended. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2017;11:580–586)
Cooling devices (CDs) worn under personal protective equipment (PPE) can alleviate some of the heat stress faced by health care workers responding to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
Six healthy, young individuals were tested while wearing 4 different CDs or no cooling (control) under PPE in an environmental chamber (32°C/92% relative humidity) while walking (3 METs, 2.5 mph, 0% grade) on a treadmill for 60 minutes. Exercise was preceded by a 15-minute stabilization period and a 15-minute donning period.
The control condition resulted in a significantly higher rectal temperature (Tre) at the end of the exercise than did all CD conditions (CD1, P=0.004; CD2, P=0.01; CD3, P=0.000; CD4, P=0.000) with CD1 and CD2 resulting in a higher Tre than CD3 and CD4 (P<0.05). The control condition resulted in a higher heart rate (HR) at the end of exercise than did the CD3 (P=0.01) and CD4 (P=0.009) conditions, whereas the HR of the CD1 and CD2 conditions was higher than that of the CD3 and CD4 conditions (P<0.05). Weight loss in the control condition was higher than in the CD3 (P=0.003) and CD4 (P=0.01) conditions. Significant differences in subjective measurements of thermal stress were found across conditions and time.
Use of CDs can be advantageous in decreasing the negative physiological and subjective responses to the heat stress encountered by health care workers wearing PPE in hot and humid environments. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2017;11:573–579)
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