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The ability of the skin to absorb heat; The effect of repeated exposure and age

Jerrold Petrofsky, Neha Goraksh, Faris Alshammari, Mitali Mohanan, Janhavi Soni, Moxi Trivedi, Haneul Lee, Akshay N. Hudlikar, Chia-hao Yang, Brindha Agilan, Nikhila Pai, Tirupathi Chindam, Vengatesh Murugesan, Jong Eun Yim, Vahishta Katrak

Med Sci Monit 2011; 17(1): CR1-8

DOI: 10.12659/MSM.881315

Published: 2010-12-16

Background:    When heat is applied to the skin, it is dissipated due to conductive heat flow in the tissue and the blood. While heat flow has been studied after applying a single heat exposure, the physiology of repeated exposures to local heat has not been well investigated.
    Material/Methods:    Twenty male and female subjects in the age range of 20–65 years old participated in a series of experiments during which a thermode was placed on their leg above the quadriceps muscle for 20 minutes, and on 3 sequential days, to see the effect of repeated local heat on skin blood flow, skin temperature, and on caloric transfer from a thermode used to raise skin temperature.
    Results:    The results of the experiment showed that, for young subjects, to raise skin temperature to 40 degrees C required more than double the calories required in older subjects. Further, in the younger subjects, the blood flow response in the first 20 minutes of heat exposure was over 30% higher than that seen in the older subjects. However, on the 2nd and 3rd day, the blood flow response of the younger subjects, was not significantly different between day 2 and 3, but was significantly less than day 1. There was no statistical difference in the blood flow response between day 1, 2 and 3 in the older subjects. In the younger subjects, in the 2 and 3rd day, the number of calories needed to warm the skin was also significantly less than that seen in the first day.
    Conclusions:    In younger subjects but not older subjects, there appears to be some degree of acclimatization with an enhanced blood flow response in the first day that was protective to the skin which was not seen in repeated heat exposure.

Keywords: Male, Middle Aged, Regional Blood Flow - physiology, Humans, Hot Temperature, Female, Analysis of Variance, Age Factors, Adult, Acclimatization - physiology, Skin - blood supply, Skin Physiological Phenomena