The elderly's physiological and perceptual responses to cooling during simulated activities of daily living in UK summer climatic conditions

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Abstract

Objectives: The elderly are the most at risk population for heat-related illness and mortality during periods of hot weather. However, evidence based elderly specific cooling strategies to prevent heat-illness are limited. The aim of this investigation was to quantify the elderly's physiological and perceptual responses to cooling through; cold water ingestion (COLD) or an L-menthol mouth rinse (MENT) during simulated activities of daily living in UK summer climatic conditions. Study Design: Randomised, controlled repeated measures research design. Methods: Ten participants (men n = 7, women n = 3: age; 69 ± 3 yrs, height; 168 ± 10 cm, body mass; 68.88 ± 13.72 kg) completed one preliminary and three experimental trials; control (CON), COLD and MENT. Experimental trials consisted of 40 min rest followed by 30 min of cycling exercise at 6 METs and a six-minute walk test (6MWT), within a 35°C, 50% RH environment. Experimental interventions (every 10 min); cold water (4°C) ingestion (total of 1.5L) or menthol (5 ml mouth swill for 5 s, menthol concentration of 0.01%). Results: Peak rectal temperature (Tre) was significantly (p < 0.05) lower in COLD compared to CON (-0.34 ± 0.16°C) and MENT (-0.36 ± 0.20°C). End exercise heart rate (HR) decreased in COLD compared to CON (-7 ± 9 b.min-1) and MENT (-6 ± 7 b.min-1). There was no difference in end exercise thermal sensation (TS) (CON; 6.1 ± 0.4, COLD; 6.0 ± 0.4, MENT; 6.4 ± 0.6) or thermal comfort (TC) (CON; 4 ± 1, COLD; 4 ± 1, MENT; 4 ± 1) between trials. The participants walked significantly further during the COLD 6MWT compared to CON (40 m ± 40 m) and MENT (40 m ± 30 m). There was reduced physiological strain in the COLD 6MWT compared to CON (Tre; -0.21 ± 0.24°C, HR; -7 ± 8 b.min-1) and MENT (Tre; -0.23 ± 0.24°C, HR; -4 ± 7 b.min-1). Conclusion: The elderly have reduced physiological strain (Tre and HR) during activities of daily living and a 6MWT in hot UK climatic conditions, when they drink cold water. Furthermore, the elderly's perception (TS and TC) of the hot environment did not differ from CON at the end of exercise with COLD or MENT interventions. Menthol provided no perceptual benefit to exercise in the heat, and provided no functional gain. The thermal sensation data indicate that elderly may be at increased risk of heat illness, due to not feeling hot and uncomfortable enough to implement physiological strain reducing strategies such as cold-water ingestion.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPublic health
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 18 Jan 2021

Keywords

  • Heat reactions
  • Heat mitigation
  • Cooling
  • Elderly

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