Five men, aged 31.2 years (SD 2.3), under semi-nude conditions and resting in a dorsal reclining position, were exposed to thermoneutral air for 30 min, followed immediately by a cold water (15 degrees C) immersion for 60 min. Cardiac output was measured using a dual-beam Doppler flow meter. During immersion in cold water, cardiac frequency (fc) showed an initial bradycardia. The lowest values were reached at about 10 min after immersion, 58.3 (SD 2.5) to 48.3 (SD 7.8) beats min-1 (P < 0.05). By the 20th min of exposure, fc had gradually risen to 70.0 beats min-1 (SD 6.6, P < 0.05). This change could be due to the inhibition of the initial vagal reflex by increased catecholamine concentration. Stroke volume (Vs) was significantly increased (P < 0.05) during the whole cold immersion period. Cardiac output, increased from 3.57 (SD 0.50) to 6.26 (SD 1.33) l min-1 (P < 0.05) and its change with time was a function of both Vs and fc. On the other hand, systolic flow acceleration was unchanged during the period of immersion. The changes in the respiratory variables (ventilation, oxygen uptake, carbon dioxide output and respiratory exchange ratio) during immersion showed an initial hyperventilation followed, as immersion proceeded, by a slower metabolic increase due to shivering.