Altitude Sickness

Every year, people die of altitude sickness. All of these deaths are preventable - Altitude.org

Altitude Sickness

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It is better to prevent acute mountain sickness than to try to treat it. Following the golden rules should mean that your body can acclimatise as you ascend and so you will be less likely to develop acute mountain sickness.

However, if you need to go up more quickly, you could consider taking a drug called acetazolamide (also known as Diamox). There is now good evidence that acetazolamide reduces symptoms of acute mountain sickness in trekkers, although it does have some unusual side-effects: it makes your hands and feet tingle, and it makes fizzy drinks taste funny.

As with any form of altitude sickness, if you do have acute mountain sickness, the best treatment is descent. Painkillers may ease the headache, but they don’t treat the condition. Acetazolamide may be helpful, especially if you need to stay at the same altitude, and resting for a day or two might give your body time to recover. It is essential that you should NEVER go up higher if you have acute mountain sickness.

If a travelling companion has symptoms of acute mountain sickness and becomes confused or unsteady, or develops an extremely severe headache or vomiting, they may have a life-threatening condition called high altitude cerebral oedema (HACE).. .

There are many other remedies touted as treatments or 'cures' for altitude sickness, but there is no evidence to support any of them. On our recent research expeditions we have conducted drug trials of antioxidants, which did not prevent altitude sickness, and Viagra.

Source: Kenneth Baillie, A.A. Roger Thompson, Matthew Bates, Excerpt from Don't die of altitude sickness, Altitude.org, February 2010.

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Last Updated : Monday, May 28, 2018