Altitude Sickness (Acute Mountain Sickness)
Travel Health

From: Travel Health Information and Advice


Altitude Sickness
Altitude sickness is the effect that reduced oxygen caused by lower air pressure has on the body when at high altitudes normally over 2,400 meters. Altitude sickness if untreated can further develop into High Altitude Pulmonary edema or High Altitude Cerebral edema.

Altitude Sickness Symptoms
Symptoms will vary but one of the early signs of altitude sickness is a headache. Other symptoms that often go with this are:

High Altitude Pulmonary Edema Symptoms
This is a more serious form of altitude sickness and fatal if left untreated, as it causes fluid to build up on the lungs, often along with:

  • Persistent coughing
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath.

High Altitude Cerebral Edema Symptoms
This is the most serious form of altitude sickness due to the build up of fluid on the brain, which is also fatal if left untreated. Symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Unconsciousness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Nausea
  • Visual impairment

Causes of Altitude Sickness
Altitude sickness is caused by ascending too quickly and not allowing your body sufficient time to acclimatize to the lower air pressure and lack of available oxygen.

How To Help Prevent Altitude Sickness
Allowing your body plenty of time to adjust to the lower oxygen levels will greatly help reduce the risk of altitude sickness.

With heights over 2,200 meters you should allow yourself at least 48 hours to initially adjust and ascend slowly from here onwards and avoid overexertion. If at any time during further ascents you start to feel unwell immediately return to a previously acclimatized height for a few days. You should drink plenty of fluids, but avoid alcohol and wear suitable clothing to maintain warmth.

Treatment For Altitude Sickness
Treatment will depend on individual conditions. It is important to return to a height at which your body has fully acclimatized to before ascending further. If symptoms persist or are of a more serious nature then seek medical advise immediately and return to lower altitudes. Altitude sickness is fatal if left untreated so ensure that all persons in the party are well acclimatized before any increase in altitude is made.


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