Journal Article

Skin Cooling on Contact with Cold Materials: The Effect of Blood Flow During Short-term Exposures


in The Annals of Occupational Hygiene

Published on behalf of British Occupational Hygiene Society

Volume 48, issue 2, pages 129-137
Published in print March 2004 | ISSN: 0003-4878
Published online March 2004 | e-ISSN: 1475-3162 | DOI:
Skin Cooling on Contact with Cold Materials: The Effect of Blood Flow During Short-term Exposures

Show Summary Details


This study investigates the effect of blood flow upon the short-term (<180 s) skin contact cooling response in order to ascertain whether sufferers of circulatory disorders, such as the vasospastic disorder Raynaud’s disease, are at a greater risk of cold injury than people with a normal rate of blood flow. Eight female volunteers participated, touching blocks of stainless steel and nylon with a finger contact force of 2.9 N at a surface temperature of –5°C under occluded and vasodilated conditions. Contact temperature (Tc) of the finger pad was measured over time using a T-type thermocouple. Forearm blood flow was measured using strain gauge plethysmography. Contact cooling responses were analysed by fitting a modified Newtonian cooling curve. A significant difference was found between the starting skin temperatures for the two blood flow conditions (P < 0.001). However, no effect of blood flow was found upon any of the derived cooling curve parameters characterizing the skin cooling response (P > 0.05). It is hypothesized that the finger contact force used (2.9 N) and the resultant pressure upon the tissue of the contact finger pad restricted the blood supply to the contact area under both blood flow conditions; therefore, no effect of blood flow was found upon the parameters describing the contact cooling response. Whilst the findings of this study are sufficient to draw a conclusion for those in a working environment, i.e. contact forces below 2.9 N will seldom be encountered, a further study will be required to ascertain conclusively whether blood flow does affect the contact cooling response at a finger contact force low enough to allow unrestricted blood flow to the finger pad. Further protocol improvements are also recommended.

Keywords: blood flow; cold injury; contact; finger pressure; skin freezing

Journal Article.  5469 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Occupational Medicine

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