Monitoring and measuring core body temperature is important to prevent or minimize physiological strain and cognitive dysfunction for workers such as first responders (e.g., firefighters) and military personnel. The purpose of this study is to compare estimated core body temperature (Tco-est), determined by heart rate (HR) data from a wearable chest strap physiology monitor, to standard rectal thermometry (Tre) under different conditions. Tco-est and Tre measurements were obtained in thermoneutral and heat stress conditions (high temperature and relative humidity) during four different experiments including treadmill exercise, cycling exercise, passive heat stress, and treadmill exercise while wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). Overall, the mean Tco-est did not differ significantly from Tre across the four conditions. During exercise at low-moderate work rates under heat stress conditions, Tco-est was consistently higher than Tre at all-time points. Tco-est underestimated temperature compared to Tre at rest in heat stress conditions and at a low work rate under heat stress while wearing PPE. The mean differences between the two measurements ranged from -0.1 ± 0.4 to 0.3 ± 0.4°C and Tco-est correlated well with HR (r = 0.795 - 0.849) and mean body temperature (r = 0.637 - 0.861). These results indicate that, the comparison of Tco-est to Tre may result in over- or underestimation which could possibly lead to heat-related illness during monitoring in certain conditions. Modifications to the current algorithm should be considered to address such issues.
Keywords: Estimated core body temperature; exercise; heat stress; rectal temperature.