Prehospital Use of Ultrathin Reflective Foils

Published:January 05, 2022DOI:
      Ultrathin reflective foils (URFs) are widely used to protect patients from heat loss, but there is no clear evidence that they are effective. We review the physics of thermal insulation by URFs and discuss their clinical applications. A conventional view is that the high reflectivity of the metallic side of the URF is responsible for thermal protection. In most circumstances, the heat radiated from a well-clothed body is minimal and the reflecting properties of a URF are relatively insignificant. The reflection of radiant heat can be impaired by condensation and freezing of the moisture on the inner surface and by a tight fit of the URF against the outermost layer of insulation. The protection by thermal insulating materials depends mostly on the ability to trap air and increases with the number of covering layers. A URF as a single layer may be useful in low wind conditions and moderate ambient temperature, but in cold and windy conditions a URF probably best serves as a waterproof outer covering. When a URF is used to protect against hypothermia in a wilderness emergency, it does not matter whether the gold or silver side is facing outward.


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