Keeping older individuals cool in hot and moderately humid conditions: wetted clothing with and without an electric fan

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2020 Mar 1;128(3):604-611. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00786.2019. Epub 2020 Feb 6.


The present study evaluated whether wearing a water-soaked t-shirt, with or without electric fan use, mitigates thermal and cardiovascular strain in older individuals exposed to hot and moderately humid conditions. Nine healthy older individuals (68 ± 4 yr; five women) completed three 120-min heat exposures (42.4 ± 0.2°C, 34.2 ± 0.9% relative humidity) on separate days while wearing a dry t-shirt (CON), a t-shirt soaked with 500 ml of tap water (WET), or a t-shirt soaked with 500 ml of tap water while facing an electric fan (2.4 ± 0.4 m/s; WET+FAN). Measurements included core and skin temperatures, evaporative mass losses, heart rate, and blood pressure. In the WET condition, elevations in core temperature were attenuated compared with DRY from 30 to 120 min and compared with WET+FAN from 30 to 90 min (P < 0.05). Evaporative mass losses (inclusive of sweat and water losses from the shirt) were greatest in WET+FAN, followed by WET, and then DRY (P < 0.01). Sweat losses were lowest in WET, followed by DRY, and then WET+FAN (P < 0.01). Heart rate was lower only at 60 min in WET versus DRY (P = 0.01). No differences in mean arterial pressure were observed (P = 0.51). In conclusion, wearing a water-soaked t-shirt without, but not with, electric fan use is an effective heat management strategy to mitigate thermal strain and lower sweat losses in older individuals exposed to hot and moderately humid conditions.NEW & NOTEWORTHY In older individuals exposed to hot and moderately humid environments, electric fan use coupled with a water-soaked t-shirt exacerbates sweat losses without mitigating heat strain compared with a dry t-shirt. However, wearing a water-soaked t-shirt without fan use reduces sweat losses and attenuates heat strain compared with a dry t-shirt and a fan/water-soaked t-shirt combination. These findings suggest wearing a water-soaked t-shirt is an effective heat-management strategy for older individuals during heat waves when air conditioning is inaccessible.

Keywords: aging; cooling strategies; core temperature; evaporation; sweat.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Body Temperature
  • Body Temperature Regulation*
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Humans
  • Humidity
  • Skin Temperature
  • Sweating