Fire service instructors are frequently exposed to extreme temperatures and hazardous situations, which result in high levels of physiological and perceptual strain (Eglin et al. 2004). Anecdotally, instructors report diminished health, exhibiting increased cold and flu symptoms, and reporting profuse sweating that interrupts their sleeping patterns. There is little current research into the acute effects of a single fire exposure, known as a 'wear', on fire instructors (Eglin et al. 2004), and whilst the short term immune responses have briefly been reported for firefighters (Smith et al. 2004), the long term immunological changes have not yet been assessed. The high frequency of wears may cause a response similar to that of over-trained athletes, where individuals experience an increased number of upper respiratory tract illnesses, persistent fatigue, altered mood states and decreased task performance (Mackinnon 2000). The opportunity to study a continually stressed population is often limited, and therefore little is known about the long-term changes in immune function that may occur with frequent exposure to high strain situations.
The thesis therefore aims to gain an understanding of current fire service instructor working practices, assess the immunological, physiological and perceptual consequences of acute and chronic wear exposures, and identify practical strategies to improve instructors’ health. For further information, visit the research project page.