Assessment of Digit Skin Temperatures Via Infrared Thermography Under Different Climatic Conditions




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The responsiveness of the manual/pedal digits (i.e., finger/toes) to temperature changes makes them valuable indicators of thermoregulatory function. Further, while infrared thermography is used in many medical settings, its utility in assessing acute changes in digit skin temperatures remains poorly established. Accordingly, this research investigated the use of forward-looking infrared (FLIR) imaging as a methodological tool for analyzing digital skin temperatures across varying climatic conditions. A Teledyne FLIR E76 camera and associated FLIR Studio software were used to assess peripheral digit skin temperatures in a sample of 10 living human subjects (3 female, 7 male). Images of each hand and foot were captured every 5 minutes over a 45-minute period during exposure to four controlled climatic conditions in an environmental chamber. These experimental conditions included a control (22°C and 50% humidity), hot-humid (37°C and 85% humidity), hot-dry (44°C and 15% humidity), and cold-dry (5°C and 80% humidity) exposures. All images were taken at a perpendicular angle from the skin surface at a distance of 0.45 mm, as measured using the camera's laser-guided range finder function. Baseline images were similarly taken during a preliminary rest period prior to each experimental exposure. This resulted in a total of 2,200 images collected from the left hand and left foot of the 25 participants. Following theoretical expectations, preliminary findings indicate peripheral digit temperatures predictably decrease during the cold-dry exposure, while the hot-dry and hot-humid exposures induce increases in digit temperatures. These preliminary results suggest that infrared thermography likely provides an expedient mechanism for accurately assessing peripheral skin temperatures in humans under different climatic conditions. Infrared thermography may thus have valuable applications for assessing thermoregulatory function in both clinical and research settings.