Cutaneous vasodilation response to a linear increase in air temperature from 28 degrees C to 40 degrees C in prepubertal boys and young men

J Physiol Anthropol. 2009;28(3):137-44. doi: 10.2114/jpa2.28.137.


The cutaneous vasodilation and sweating responses of prepubertal children to heat stress were examined. Seven prepubertal boys (9-11 years old) and 9 young men (20-24 years old) were seated wearing only swimming trunks while the air temperature (T(a)) was linearly increased from 28 degrees C to 40 degrees C over 50 min and then maintained at 40 degrees C for an additional 10 min. Skin temperature, cutaneous vascular conductance (CVC), and local sweating rate (m(sw)) were measured at multiple sites on the body. The boys had a significantly greater mean surface area-to-mass ratio compared with the young men. The rectal temperature did not change in either group with increasing T(a), although it was significantly higher in the boys. During the first half of the exposure period, when T(a) was less than the mean skin temperature (T(sk)), the boys had significantly higher CVC on the chest and significantly lower m(sw) on the chest and thigh as compared with the young men. During the latter half of the exposure, when heat stress was increased as T(a) exceeded mean T(sk), the boys had significantly higher mean T(sk), greater CVC on the chest and finger, greater rate of increase in the CVC on the forehead and finger, lower m(sw) on the chest and thigh, greater increase in heart rate, and higher thermal sensation. The mean body temperature at the onset of sweating was significantly greater in the boys than in the men. These results suggest that, compared with young men, prepubertal boys manifest greater physiological and perceptual strain under heat stress induced by T(a) exceeding mean T(sk), which is most probably attributable to a combination of lower evaporative heat loss, as evidenced by lower m(sw), and greater heat gain owing to a larger surface area-to-mass ratio. The maturation-related differences in heat loss responses vary according to body site.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Body Temperature
  • Body Weights and Measures
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena*
  • Sweating / physiology*
  • Temperature*
  • Vasodilation / physiology*
  • Young Adult