Research Departments Physiology 20210107 Cooling vests for COVID nurses
7 January 2021

Due to the high contagiousness of COVID-19, nursing staff has to work in protective but hardly ventilating clothing. Good protective clothing is essential for their work, but the temperature under these suits can be as high as 36 degrees, leading to reduced comfort. The cooling vests, actually developed for top athletes at the Tokyo Olympics, were adapted and prepared for use in COVID care.

Cooling vests for top athletes
Thijs Eijsvogels, exercise physiologist and project leader of the Olympic Games project Thermo Tokyo, explains: "The top sport cooling vests were not immediately suitable for use, because they were designed to cool quickly before or after a physical effort. COVID care involves long-term deployment, with the vests being worn during care activities. The vests remain cool for a longer period of time".

While the cooling vests were already in use, a study was being conducted into their effects. In this COOLVID study, carried out by TNO and Radboudumc, seventeen nurses from the Radboudumc, working in COVID care, were followed. They were followed for two days; one day with and one day without a cooling vest. They wore the vest over their medical clothing and under the protective clothing. The measurements included body temperature and heart rate, as well as subjective measurements such as comfort and heat experience.

Less heat during a shift
The results, now published in Temperature, show that the body temperature of the participants increased slightly, but not tremendously, despite the fact that the temperature under the protective clothing did. So the cooling vest had little effect on body temperature. However, the heart rate was a few beats per minute lower on the days the cooling vest was worn. But the biggest difference was in the subjective experience of the health care providers. Yannick de Korte, PhD student from the physiology department and co-researcher of the COOLVID study: "Without a cooling vest, almost 90% of the nurses experience discomfort and warmth. With cooling vests only 20-30% of the participants experience this. So the conditions under which they have to do their work are experienced as more pleasant and comfortable. Almost everyone says: I can work with a cool vest as I normally do without protective clothing".

Medical Heat Stress
The COOLVID research was carried out within the Medical Heat Stress project, by TNO, as part of its brains4corona program, and the Radboudumc, building on the Thermo Tokyo project. The study was funded by ZonMw. The researchers have developed an infographic for the use of the cooling vests, which is translated into 9 languages and is supported by EU Horizon 2020 (HeatShield #668786).

About the publication
Publication in Temperature: Cooling vests alleviate perceptual heat strain perceived by COVID-19 nurses - Johannus Q. de Korte, Coen C.W.G. Bongers, Milène Catoire, Boris R.M. Kingma, Thijs M.H. Eijsvogels.

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