Water immersion in the treatment of exertional hyperthermia: physical determinants

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2014 Sep;46(9):1727-35. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000292.


Purpose: We examined the effect of differences in body surface area-to-lean body mass ratio (AD/LBM) on core temperature cooling rates during cold water immersion (CWI, 2°C) and temperate water immersion (TWI, 26°C) after exercise-induced hyperthermia.

Methods: Twenty male participants were divided into two groups: high (315.6 ± 7.9 cm·kg, n = 10) and low (275.6 ± 8.6 cm·kg, n = 10) AD/LBM. On two separate occasions, participants ran on a treadmill in the heat (40.0°C, 20% relative humidity) wearing an impermeable rain suit until rectal temperature reached 40.0°C. After exercise, participants were immersed up to the nipples (arms remained out of the water) in either a CWI (2°C) or a TWI (26°C) circulated water bath until rectal temperature returned to 37.5°C.

Results: Overall rectal cooling rates were significantly different between experimental groups (high vs low AD/LBM, P = 0.005) and between immersion conditions (CWI vs TWI, P < 0.001). Individuals with a high AD/LBM had an approximately 1.7-fold greater overall rectal cooling rate relative to those with low AD/LBM during both CWI (high: 0.27°C·min ± 0.10°C·min vs low: 0.16°C·min ± 0.10°C·min) and TWI (high: 0.10°C·min ± 0.05°C·min vs low: 0.06°C·min ± 0.02°C·min). Further, the overall rectal cooling rates during CWI were approximately 2.7-fold greater than during TWI for both the high (CWI: 0.27°C·min ± 0.10°C·min vs TWI: 0.10°C·min ± 0.05°C·min) and the low (CWI: 0.16°C·min ± 0.10°C·min vs TWI: 0.06°C·min ± 0.02°C·min) AD/LBM groups.

Conclusion: We show that individuals with a low AD/LBM have a reduced rectal cooling rate and take longer to cool than those with a high AD/LBM during both CWI and TWI. However, CWI provides the most effective cooling treatment irrespective of physical differences.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity / physiology
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Surface Area*
  • Body Temperature*
  • Cold Temperature* / adverse effects
  • Esophagus / physiology
  • Fever / etiology
  • Fever / therapy*
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Humans
  • Immersion*
  • Male
  • Physical Exertion / physiology*
  • Rectum / physiology
  • Running / physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Water
  • Young Adult


  • Water