We recently developed a nonshivering human model for severe hypothermia by using meperidine to inhibit shivering in mildly hypothermic subjects. This thermal model was used to evaluate warming techniques. On three occasions, eight subjects were immersed for approximately 25 min in 9 degrees C water. Meperidine (1.5 mg/kg) was injected before the subjects exited the water. Subjects were then removed, insulated, and rewarmed in an ambient temperature of -20 degrees C with either 1) spontaneous rewarming (control), 2) inhalation rewarming with saturated air at approximately 43 degrees C, or 3) forced-air warming. Additional meperidine (to a maximum cumulative dose of 2.5 mg/kg) was given to maintain shivering inhibition. The core temperature afterdrop was 30-40% less during forced-air warming (0.9 degree C) than during control (1.4 degrees C) and inhalation rewarming (1.2 degrees C) (P < 0.05). Rewarming rate was 6- to 10-fold greater during forced-air warming (2.40 degrees C/h) than during control (0.41 degree C/h) and inhalation rewarming (0.23 degree C/h) (P < 0.05). In nonshivering hypothermic subjects, forced-air warming provided a rewarming advantage, but inhalation rewarming did not.