Body cooling system for preventing heat injury

Used by the Army's Ranger Training Brigade, this portable system is ideal for cooling the body by immersion of the hands and arms in water


Panel A. Prototype BCS set up and ready for use. Panel B. Prototype systems in use at Ranger School, Fort Benning. Unit leaders strategically place the units at the end of high-intensity training stations to facilitate cooling before moving on to the next event.

Heat injury is a concern for many people including factory workers, farmers, roofers, athletes, outdoor enthusiasts, and military personnel. Within the branches of the Department of Defense, there are over 300 exertional heat strokes and more than 2,000 other incidences of exertional heat illness each year.

Among the tips from the U.S. Center for Disease Control for avoiding heat injury are cool showers or baths. Applying cool water to the skin can be much more effective than cooling the body by sweating (evaporation), convection (air fan), conduction (skin to another surface) or radiation (loss of heat to the ambient air by electromagnetic waves).

The heat transfer coefficient of water is approximately 25 times greater than air.

Accordingly, Army researchers have developed the mobile body cooling system (BCS) to allow soldiers to cool down fast during training. This collapsible tub is designed such that several people can simultaneously immerse their hands and lower arms in cooling water. These parts of the body represent 13.2% of the body surface and provide sufficient area for quickly transferring body heat to the water. Placing the hands and lower arms in water at 50° Fahrenheit (10° Celsius) can reduce core body temperature by 2° F in 3 – 10 minutes. 68° F water is nearly as effective.

In addition to military trainees, the BCS is ideal for sports teams, athletic endurance events such as marathons, training situations, firefighters, building construction, agricultural work, or any strenuous activity commonly performed in hot environments.

Multiple systems have been distributed for testing at Fort Benning, home of the Infantry School, Airborne School, and Ranger Training Brigade. Initial results indicate positive user acceptance, reduction in heat injuries and heat stroke, and improved soldier performance. Additional systems have been requested.

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