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The interrelationship between air temperature and humidity as applied locally to the skin: The resultant response on skin temperature and blood flow with age differences

Jerrold S. Petrofsky, Lee Berk, Faris Alshammari, Haneul Lee, Adel Hamdan, Jong Eun Yim, Yusufi Kodawala, Dennis Patel, Bhakti Nevgi, Gauri Shetye, Harold Moniz, Wei Ti Chen, Mastour Alshaharani, Kunal Pathak, Sushma Neupane, Karunakar Somanaboina, Samruddha Shenoy, Sungwan Cho, Bargav Dave, Rajavi Desai, Swapnil Malthane, Hani Al-Nakhli

Med Sci Monit 2012; 18(4): CR201-208

DOI: 10.12659/MSM.882619

Background:    Most studies of the skin and how it responds to local heat have been conducted with either water, thermodes, or dry heat packs. Very little has been accomplished to look at the interaction between air humidity and temperature on skin temperature and blood flow. With variable air temperatures and humidity’s around the world, this, in many ways, is a more realistic assessment of environmental impact than previous water bath studies.
    Material/Methods:    Eight young and 8 older subjects were examined in an extensive series of experiments where on different days, air temperature was 38, 40, or 42°C. and at each temperature, humidity was either 0%, 25%, 50%, 75%, or 100% humidity. Over a 20 minute period of exposure, the response of the skin in terms of its temperature and blood flow was assessed.
    Results:    For both younger and older subjects, for air temperatures of 38 and 40°C., the humidity of the air had no effect on the blood flow response of the skin, while skin temperature at the highest humidity was elevated slightly. However, for air temperatures of 42°C., at 100% humidity, there was a significant elevation in skin blood flow and skin temperature above the other four air humidity’s (p<0.05). In older subjects, the blood flow response was less and the skin temperature was much higher than younger individuals for air at 42°C. and 100% humidity (p<0.05).
    Conclusions:    Thus, in older subjects, warm humid air caused a greater rise in skin temperature with less protective effect of blood flow to protect the skin from overheating than is found in younger subjects.

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