Computer model predict heat stress

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: February 2nd, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Combat veterans say war is hell. And when battles are fought in hot climates, that phrase takes on new meaning… especially if military personnel must wear heavy protective gear.

Under these conditions, heat is more than a comfort issue. It can hurt performance and even threaten lives.

But little is known about the precise effects high temperatures have on men and women on the battlefield.

University of Missouri researchers want to change things. With funding from the U-S Air Force, they developed a computer model that predicts heat stress by analyzing personal, physiological and environmental factors.

The model will provide risk assessment specific to individual soldiers, taking into account data such as age, height, weight and previous heat acclimation.

Incorporated into handheld computers, the model could help commanders determine how long troops should work under high-temperature conditions. It might also help firefighters and other civilians who work in unusually hot environments.

The model was developed using a climate-controlled chamber where volunteers walked on a treadmill in temperatures ranging from seventy-five degrees up to one-hundred-and-ten, with humidity anywhere from twenty-five percent to seventy-five percent.

To better simulate combat conditions, the volunteers suited up in various types of apparel and gear during the tests.

Sensors tracked their heart rate, core temperature and other factors.

The Air Force was impressed enough to plan field tests of the program.

If the technology proves successful, then the heat of battle might one day be a little less hellish for our troops.