In order to maintain optimal human health and functional capacity we must maintain our core body temperature within a narrow range. The storage of excess heat due to exercise and/or heat exposure results in an elevation in body temperature and if left unchecked leads to progressive hyperthermia and ultimately heat stroke. Alternatively, a disproportionate shedding of body heat leads to reductions in core and peripheral tissue temperatures and eventually hypothermia. The human body has a robust set of physiological responses, such as changes in sweating, muscle and skin blood flow, and shivering, to avoid catastrophic heat stress and cold stress.
Many of us have heard people say: "I tend to sweat a lot" or "I really feel the cold". The primary goal of the research conducted in the Thermal Ergonomics Laboratory is to understand the reason why thermoregulatory responses are almost always different between different people. Projects investigate whether the source of variability is physiological (e.g. fitness, stages of development), physical (e.g. body size, fatness) and/or psychological (e.g. thermal perception, sensations of fatigue). By mapping out the interactions between the various factors influencing human thermoregulation, we can:
1) Better advise people how to safely navigate through periods of extreme heat (e.g. heat waves) and extreme cold
2) Ensure that athletes (both professional and recreational) and workers (indoor and outdoor) conduct their regular
activities without risking their health through individually-catered exposure and hydration guidelines
3) Provide effective temperature and hydration management to babies during pre, peri and post-operative care
4) Advise specific populations (e.g. spinal cord injury athletes, sympathectomy patients) how to better mitigate
thermal stress during exercise and heat waves
The Thermal Ergonomics Laboratory is supported by funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), NFL Charities, Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and Health Canada.