An exposure assessment study of ambient heat exposure in an elderly population in Baltimore, Maryland.
Because of concern for heat-related mortality in vulnerable populations, particularly the elderly, practical epidemiologic methods are needed for the assessment of ambient heat exposure on individuals. We used a personal monitor to measure body temperature, ambient temperature, heart rate, and activity level of 42 elderly residents of Baltimore, Maryland, in the summer months of 2000. Each participant was monitored for approximately 48 hr to examine the association between ambient temperature and body temperature, using regression methods that account for highly correlated data within individuals. We also examined the associations of Baltimore temperature data with personal ambient temperature and body temperature. An average 0.15 degrees F [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.05-0.25] increase in median body temperature was found for each 1 degrees F increase in median ambient temperature. Heart rate and activity level were not found to be related to body temperature or ambient temperature, although heart rate was associated with activity level. Median heart rate increased an average of 0.17 (95% CI, 0.13-0.21) beats per minute for every unit increase in median activity level. Personal ambient temperature was slightly lower than Baltimore temperatures, whereas an association was not found between body temperature and Baltimore temperatures. The protocol established in this study for heat exposure assessment could feasibly be applied on a larger scale.