Int J Sports Med 1996; 17(1): 66-70
DOI: 10.1055/s-2007-972810
Orthopedics and Clinical Science

© Georg Thieme Verlag Stuttgart · New York

Infrared Thermometry in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Heat Exhaustion

R. D. Hansen1 , T. S. Olds2 , D. A. Richards3 , C. R. Richards3 , B. Leelarthaepin4
  • 1Department of Life Sciences, The University of Sydney
  • 2School of Sport and Leisure Studies, The University of New South Wales
  • 3Sun Herald City to Surf Fun-run Medical Committee, Sydney
  • 4Faculty of Nursing, The University of Sydney
Further Information

Publication History

Publication Date:
09 March 2007 (online)

Infrared (IR) thermometers (FirstTemp 2000A, Intelligent Medical Systems, California) were used to monitor tympanic temperature (Tty) in 12 collapsed fun-runners suspected of suffering exertion-induced heat exhaustion (EIHE). Rectal temperature (Tre) was monitored via digital clinical thermometers. Conditions during the fun-run and in the field treatment centre were cool (air temperature 16 - 18 °C, relative humidity 60 - 65 %). On admission, Tty was (mean ± SEM) 1.2 ± 0.3 °C lower than Tre. For admission plus subsequent monitoring data pooled, although Tty correlated significantly with Tre (r = 0.86, p < 0.001), mean Tty (37.4 ± 0.2 °C) was significantly lower (p < 0.01) than mean Tre (38.4 ± 0.4 °C). Cotton wool ear pads, applied to 10 of the runners on admission to minimise environmental effects on Tty, did not significantly improve the IR monitoring. A Tty ≥ 37.1 °C predicted a Tre ≥ 38 °C (an established diagnostic criterion for EIHE) with a sensitivity of 0.93 and a specificity of 0.63. These data indicate that IR tympanic thermometry, when utilised in cool environments, can result in misdiagnosis of heat exhaustion. Although IR thermometry shows some promise as a rapid, non-invasive means of monitoring core temperature, it should not be used in the diagnosis and treatment of heat exhaustion unless further research validates the method.