Thermometry, calorimetry, and mean body temperature during heat stress

Compr Physiol. 2013 Oct;3(4):1689-719. doi: 10.1002/cphy.c130011.


Heat balance in humans is maintained at near constant levels through the adjustment of physiological mechanisms that attain a balance between the heat produced within the body and the heat lost to the environment. Heat balance is easily disturbed during changes in metabolic heat production due to physical activity and/or exposure to a warmer environment. Under such conditions, elevations of skin blood flow and sweating occur via a hypothalamic negative feedback loop to maintain an enhanced rate of dry and evaporative heat loss. Body heat storage and changes in core temperature are a direct result of a thermal imbalance between the rate of heat production and the rate of total heat dissipation to the surrounding environment. The derivation of the change in body heat content is of fundamental importance to the physiologist assessing the exposure of the human body to environmental conditions that result in thermal imbalance. It is generally accepted that the concurrent measurement of the total heat generated by the body and the total heat dissipated to the ambient environment is the most accurate means whereby the change in body heat content can be attained. However, in the absence of calorimetric methods, thermometry is often used to estimate the change in body heat content. This review examines heat exchange during challenges to heat balance associated with progressive elevations in environmental heat load and metabolic rate during exercise. Further, we evaluate the physiological responses associated with heat stress and discuss the thermal and nonthermal influences on the body's ability to dissipate heat from a heat balance perspective.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Temperature Regulation
  • Body Temperature*
  • Calorimetry / methods*
  • Heat-Shock Response*
  • Humans
  • Thermometry / methods*