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High temperatures at workplaces lead to health-related risks and premature exhaustion. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic requires many health professionals to perform under unfavorable conditions. Personal protective equipment (PPE) causes thermal stress and negatively affects performance.
Patients, materials and methods
This pilot project investigated the effects of PPE and additional cooling wear on physiological parameters and concentration of six healthy staff members of the Plastic Surgery Department of the Medical University of Graz, Austria during simulated patient care. In this study two 1‑hour cycles with patient care-related tasks with PPE and PPE + cooling-wear, respectively, were conducted. A third cycle with scrubs exclusively served as baseline/negative control. The assessment occurred immediately pre-cycles and post-cycles.
Pre-cycle assessments showed no significant differences between the cycles. After PPE cycle, increased physical stress levels and decrements in concentration capacity were observed. Physiological parameters were significantly less affected in the cooling cycle, while concentration capacity slightly increased.
COVID-19 PPE causes considerable thermal stress, ultimately affecting human performance. As opportunity to withstand thermal stress, and improve patients’ and professionals’ safety, cooling-wear can be considered relevant. Medical personnel performing in exceptional situations may particularly benefit from further development and investigation of cooling strategies.