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evaporation, humidity, nursery, thermal environment



  1. Thomas, Karen A. PhD, RN-NIC


PURPOSE: To create a thermal map of ambient air, radiant, and evaporative temperatures and humidity throughout the NICU nursery by season across a calendar year.


SUBJECTS: Each cubicle of the 32-bed NICU, distributed across 5 rooms, in a level III nursery was measured.


METHODS: Temperatures were recorded at a consistent time on one day during January, April, July, and October.


MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: An electronic monitor (QUESTemp[degrees] 34; Quest Technologies, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin) was used to measure dry bulb, wet bulb, and globe thermometer temperatures.


RESULTS: Analysis of variance revealed statistically significant (P < .000) differences in season, room, and season by room interaction. Room ambient air temperatures differed by less than 2[degrees]F across season. Radiant temperature paralleled air temperature. Humidity, the predominant difference across season, produced evaporative temperatures considerably lower than room air temperature, and the gradient between mean nursery dry bulb temperature and wet bulb temperature was 9.3[degrees]F in summer and 16.8[degrees]F in winter.


CONCLUSIONS: The thermal map revealed seasonal thermal differences, particularly in humidity level and evaporative temperature. Room temperature alone does not reflect the total thermal environment. Recommendations include periodic assessment of nurseries along with air, evaporative, and radiant temperatures as well as humidity to fully appreciate the impact of the thermal environment on infants.