Assessing the validity of tympanic temperature to predict core temperature of firefighters in different environmental conditions

The present study examined the validity of tympanic temperature measurements as a predictor of core temperature on the fireground in different environmental conditions. Fifty-one volunteer firefighters participated in the study across four different conditions, the conditions consisted of; 1) passive (i.e., no intervention) cooling in cold ambient temperatures (0-6°C); 2) cooling (through water immersion) in cool ambient temperatures (10-12ºC); 3) cooling (through water immersion) in warm ambient temperatures (21.5°C); and, 4) passive cooling in warm ambient temperatures (22°C). Firefighters wore full structural personal protective clothing while performing common firefighting duties including search and rescue tasks for 20-40 minutes. There was no difference between core and tympanic temperature immediately post-exercise across any condition. However, for all conditions, tympanic temperature dropped significantly faster than core temperature from 0 minutes, and remained significantly lower (p < 0.05) than core temperature from nine to 20 minutes post-training. The results show that there is no consistent difference between core and tympanic temperature during recovery from a simulated firefighting task across a range of different ambient conditions. Agencies should, accordingly, prioritize investigating other practical markers of core temperature as part of a broader heat stress management plan for firefighters.

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