Influence of topical menthol gel on thermoregulation and perception while walking in the heat

Alejandro M. Rosales, Matthias J. Walters, Mark L. McGlynn, Christopher W. Collins, Dustin R. Slivka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: Menthol is known to elicit opposing thermoregulatory and perceptual alterations during intense exercise. The current purpose was to determine the thermoregulatory and perceptual effects of topical menthol application prior to walking in the heat. Methods: Twelve participants walked (1.6 m s−1, 5% grade) for 30 min in the heat (38 °C, 60% relative humidity) with either a 4% menthol or control gel on the upper (shoulder to wrist) and lower (mid-thigh to ankle) limbs. Skin blood flow (SkBF), sweat (rate, composition), skin conductivity, heart rate, temperature (skin, core), and thermal perception were measured prior to and during exercise. Results: Skin conductivity expressed as time to 10, 20, 30, and 40 µS was delayed due to menthol (559 ± 251, 770 ± 292, 1109 ± 301, 1299 ± 335 s, respectively) compared to the control (515 ± 260, 735 ± 256, 935 ± 300, 1148 ± 298 s, respectively, p = 0.048). Sweat rate relative to body surface area was lower due to menthol (0.55 ± 0.16 L h−1 m(2)−1) than the control (0.64 ± 0.16 L h−1 m(2)−1, p = 0.049). Core temperature did not differ at baseline between the menthol (37.4 ± 0.3 °C) and control (37.3 ± 0.4 °C, p = 0.298) but was higher at 10, 20, and 30 min due to menthol (37.5 ± 0.3, 37.7 ± 0.2, 38.1 ± 0.3 °C, respectively) compared to the control (37.3 ± 0.4, 37.4 ± 0.3, 37.7 ± 0.3 °C, respectively, p < 0.05). The largest rise in core temperature from baseline was at 30 min during menthol (0.7 ± 0.3 °C) compared to the control (0.4 ± 0.2 °C, p = 0.004). Overall, the menthol treatment was perceived cooler, reaching “slightly warm” whereas the control treatment reached “warm” (p < 0.001). Conclusion: Menthol application to the limbs impairs whole-body thermoregulation while walking in the heat despite perceiving the environment as cooler.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-327
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology
Volume124
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023

Keywords

  • Body temperature
  • Galvanic skin response
  • Skin conductivity
  • Sweat rate
  • Thermoregulation
  • Transient receptor potential melastatin

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