Effectiveness of cold water immersion for treating exertional heat stress when immediate response is not possible

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2015 Jun;25 Suppl 1:229-39. doi: 10.1111/sms.12317.

Abstract

Immediate treatment with cold water immersion (CWI) is the gold standard for exertional heatstroke. In the field, however, treatment is often delayed due to delayed paramedic response and/or inaccurate diagnosis. We examined the effect of treatment (reduction of rectal temperature to 37.5 °C) delays of 5, 20, and 40 min on core cooling rates in eight exertionally heat-stressed (40.0 °C rectal temperature) individuals. We found that rectal temperature was elevated above baseline (P < 0.05) at the end of all delay periods (5 min: 40.08 ± 0.32; 20 min: 39.92 ± 0.40; 40 min: 39.57 ± 0.29 °C). Mean arterial pressure was reduced (P < 0.05) below baseline (92 ± 1.8 mm Hg) after all delay periods (5 min: 75 ± 2.6; 20 min: 74 ± 1.7; 40 min: 70 ± 2.1 mm Hg; P > 0.05). Rectal core cooling rates were similar among conditions (5 min: 0.20 ± 0.01; 20 min: 0.17 ± 0.02; 40 min: 0.17 ± 0.01 °C/min; P > 0.05). The rectal temperature afterdrop following CWI was similar across conditions (5 min: 35.95; 20 min: 35.61; 40 min: 35.87 °C; P > 0.05). We conclude that the effectiveness of 2 °C CWI as a treatment for exertional heat stress remains high even when applied with a delay of 40 min. Therefore, our results support that CWI is the most appropriate treatment for exertional heatstroke as it is capable of quickly reversing hyperthermia even when treatment is commenced with a significant delay.

Keywords: Cold water immersion; cardiovascular strain; exercise recovery; heat stress.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Temperature / physiology
  • Cryotherapy / methods*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Fever / etiology
  • Fever / physiopathology
  • Fever / therapy*
  • Heat Stress Disorders / etiology
  • Heat Stress Disorders / physiopathology
  • Heat Stress Disorders / therapy*
  • Hot Temperature / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Immersion*
  • Male
  • Physical Exertion / physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Water*

Substances

  • Water