Cooling Vests: Medical Applications and Beyond

Cooling Vest in Welding Studio

The use of vests in the medical field has been on the rise as of late. Vests outfitted with sensors that can read precision grade metrics (we’ve seen everything from heart-rate analytics to concentration of fluid in the lungs), vests that make transport of life-saving technology low profile and convenient, and vests that are designed to diagnose and even treat specific illnesses are everywhere in the medical field. Cooling vests – while lower “tech” than, say, a vest outfitted with ECG sensors – can offer just as many medical benefits to the wearer when used appropriately.

There are a few common ways to give a vest cooling properties. The most basic cooling method is evaporation – the vest has absorbent beads sewn into the material that hold cold water, allowing it to slowly evaporate over time, giving the body a cooling effect when air moves through the garment and beads. The activation process is as easy as soaking the vest in water, making it easy to reuse. Phase change cooling vests involve removable inserts that are placed in a freezer or cooler and rotated through the vest. In house, Fieldtex has been developing our own cooling vest that features a double-layered design with mesh interior pockets designed to hold instant disposable or reusable icepacks against the wearer, while trapping the cold inside with the breathable outer layer. This makes it durable, easy to use (and wash) and reuse. As far as “cooling technology vests” go, there are even battery powered cooling vests that absorb and expel heat from the wearer, but these seem to be less widely incorporated than the prior three.

After reading a recent article about therapeutic hypothermia induced by specialized medical vests post cardiac arrest in order to preserve neurological function, it’s evident that the benefits of cooling vests are being highly regarded as a medical treatment. Perhaps due to fever prevention, which are notorious after cardiac arrest, these vests can help comatose patients maintain their standard of neurological activity. Another, and one of the most common uses of cooling vests are the comfort and temperature regulation of people with multiple sclerosis. Any heat, even slight, can impair nerve impulses enough to enhance symptoms – cooling vests can help maintain a steady, cool body temperature, prevent symptom fluctuations, therefore reducing symptom flare-ups. This also gives people with MS to do more strenuous activity (such as exercising) without overheating for a longer duration. Another medical use for cooling vests could be as a pain-maintenance tool; if you have fallen and hurt your back or suffered another torso injury (which are not uncommon sports injuries), a cooling vest could aid in soothing any lasting aches and pains you may have. This could also include cooling therapy for any chronic muscle pain in the torso.

Cooling vests are being adopted beyond the medical field as well. First Responders – particularly Firefighters – can benefit from the cooling properties beneath their gear on the scene of a fire, so as not to suffer heat-stress in action. They could also be utilized to help regulate the temperature of people rescued from the scene. Welders and construction workers both tend to work in hot environments and also benefit from the cooling properties of the vest. While it can get hot under their gear, cooling vests can even be used by overseas military. Athletes have adopted cooling vests as tools used both before and after events – Olympians have been using them from the 2004 Olympics on in order to improve their performance, primarily the runners. We’ve also touched on this in our post discussing Medical VS. Safety grade Vests.

Cooling vests – both in the medical realm, and outside of it – are becoming more and more widely utilized as we further understand the importance of both temperature regulation, the effects of heat stress, and the benefits of their use.