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Use of fans and/or skin-wetting as a low cost cooling strategy for older adults during heatwaves

Older adults are some of the most vulnerable during heatwaves due to underlying health conditions, age-related decrements in sweating, medications that can alter sweating responses and other social and cognitive reasons. This research aims to investigate cost-effective, sustainable cooling strategies for older adults during heatwaves to help inform policy guidelines and health advice provided to the public. 

This study requires at least 5 and up to 9 visits to the Susan Wakil Health Building, Camperdown Campus. You will undergo a physician health screen which includes a cardiac stress test to determine your eligibility for the study. If you are cleared, you will return for 4 more visits approximately 4hrs in duration where you will experience 3 hours of passive heat exposure simulating either a very hot and humid (38C, 60% RH) or very hot dry (45C, 15% RH) heat wave in our state of the art climate chamber in the Thermal Ergonomics Laboratory. 

Various physiological and perceptual measures will be obtained including body temperature, whole body sweat loss, skin blood flow, local sweat rate, thermal comfort, thermal perception and thirst sensation. During each trial you will experience one of the following: No intervention; Fan set 1.25m in front, blowing on you the whole time; Skin wetting applied using a spray bottle on various parts of your body; or the Fan + Skin wetting interventions combined. You will be provided a specific amount of water to drink throughout and can bring a book or listen to music, watch tv (on a small ipad) during the trial.


You may be eligible to participate in this study if you:

  • 60 years of age or older
  • Healthy
  • Non-smokers or ex-smokers (≥1y since quitting)
  • Fluent or have no difficulty understanding and speaking English

People are excluded from taking part in the study if they have any of the following: 

  • A body mass index over 35
  • History/signs/symptoms of coronary artery disease or heart failure
  • currently undertaking hormone replacement therapy
  • Currently taking a medication known to cause hyper- or hypo-hidrosis (except those taken for hypertension)
    Currently taking a beta-blocker
  • Evidence of current fluid and electrolyte disorders
  • Anemia
  • Abnormal thyroid function
  • Arrhythmias
  • Diabetes
  • Renal disease
  • Liver disease
  • Cerebrovascular disease
  • Significant pulmonary disease
  • Endocrine abnormalities
  • Uncontrolled hypertension (180/110 mmHg)
  • Significant cognitive impairment
  • Psychiatric disorder
  • Substance abuse
  • Degenerative neurological condition 
  • Any other medical condition deemed to pose risk during the proposed testing or experiments, or prevent them from completing the screening stress test.

The inclusion/exclusion criteria are in place to isolate our desired study population (healthy, older adults) and ensure participants are in adequate physical health to participate in the study.

How to participate

If you are interested in assisting with this important and exciting area of research, please contact the study facilitator:

Nicole Vargas at 9036 4052 or