A pilot study of core body temperatures in healthcare workers wearing personal protective equipment in a high-level isolation unit Academic Article uri icon


  • Personal protective equipment used by healthcare workers to mitigate disease transmission risks while caring for patients with high-consequence infectious diseases can impair normal body cooling mechanisms and exacerbate physiological strain. Symptoms of heat strain (e.g., cognitive impairment, confusion, muscle cramping) are especially harmful in the high-risk environment of high-consequence infectious disease care. In this pilot study, the core body temperatures of healthcare workers were assessed using an ingestible, wireless-transmission thermometer while performing patient care tasks common to a high-level isolation unit setting in powered air purifying respirator (PAPR)-level. The objective was to determine the potential for occupational health hazard due to heat stress in an environmentally controlled unit. Maximum core temperatures of the six participants ranged from 37.4 °C (99.3 °F) to 39.9 °C (103.8°F) during the 4-hr shift; core temperatures of half (n = 3) of the participants exceeded 38.5 °C (101.3 °F), the upper core temperature limit. Future investigations are needed to identify other heat stress risks both in and outside of controlled units. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic offers unique opportunities for field-based research on risks of heat stress related to personal protective equipment in healthcare workers that can lead to both short- and long-term innovations in this field.

published proceedings

  • Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene

altmetric score

  • 3.2

author list (cited authors)

  • Herstein, J. J., Abdoulaye, A. A., Jelden, K. C., Le, A. B., Beam, E. L., Gibbs, S. G., ... Lowe, J. J.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Herstein, Jocelyn J||Abdoulaye, Abdoulaziz A||Jelden, Katelyn C||Le, Aurora B||Beam, Elizabeth L||Gibbs, Shawn G||Hewlett, Angela L||Vasa, Angela||Boulter, Kathleen C||Stentz, Terry L||Kopocis-Herstein, Kelli R||ElRayes, Wael||Wichman, Chris||Lowe, John J

publication date

  • September 2021