Purpose: Repeated strenuous work in the heat may predispose firefighters to augmented immune responses and inflammation. This study examined the immune responses in 12 older Firefighters (FF) and 12 older Non-Firefighters (Non-FF), and a group of 6 young FF and 6 young Non-FF, following intermittent exercise in the heat.
Methods: The participants, matched for age, body surface area, body composition, and VO(2peak), cycled 4 × 15 min at moderate-to-high heat production (400 W), each followed by 15-min rest, in dry [10-20% relative humidity (RH)] and humid (60% RH) heat (35 °C). Rectal temperature (T(re)) and heart rate (HR) were measured continuously, and blood samples at baseline (PRE) and following 60-min recovery (POST) were analyzed for Interleukin (IL)-6, Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF-α), C-reactive protein (CRP), platelet count (PLT), and mean platelet volume (MPV).
Results: No differences were observed for T(re), HR, TNF-α, CRP, or PLT between the FF and Non-FF in either condition. The Non-FF had greater changes in IL-6 (Warm/Dry = +1.10 ± 0.18, Warm/Humid = +2.94 ± 0.74 pg mL(-1)), compared to the FF (Warm/Dry = +0.67 ± 0.17, Warm/Humid = +0.70 ± 0.33 pg mL(-1)), and MPV at PRE/POST compared to the FF. Between the young and older FF and Non-FF, no differences in T(re), HR, PLT, or MPV were observed, however, elevated CRP (Warm/Dry) in the older FF, and IL-6 (Warm/Dry) and TNF-α (both conditions) in the older Non-FF, were observed.
Conclusions: The elevated IL-6 in the Non-FF is potentially indicative of increased strain in the Non-FF and/or adaptive changes in the FF due to the occupational demands.