Physiological and Comfort Effects of a Commercial "Cooling Cap" Worn Under Protective Helmets

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Ballistic protective helmets can impair heat dissipation. A cooling device in the helmet (cooling pad, CP) could help prevent heat problems in military personnel and potentially enhance comfort. This study examined the effects of CP on rectal and skin temperatures, heart rate, percent change in plasma volume, urine specific gravity, rating of perceived exertion, and other subjective measures while performing light work in a hot environment. It was hypothesized that the CP would act as an insulator to the head, which would not positively affect any physiological variable but could positively affect wearer subjective comfort or temperature. Participants performed a work protocol for 2 hr. A ballistic vest, slacks, short-sleeved button-up shirt, and a ballistic helmet (one trial with CP and one trial without) were worn. Repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) showed no differences (p > 0.05) between wearing and not wearing the CP for any physiological parameter. However, participants perceived the CP as cooler (p = 0.002). Other trends in perceptual data such as thermal strain and helmet comfort indicated the CP felt cooler. However, based on forehead temperature and participant comments, the CP lost its cooling ability relatively quickly (within 30 min).