Altitude sickness happens when you cannot get enough oxygen in the atmosphere at high altitudes. This causes lack of desire symptoms like a head ache, and trouble sleeping. It occurs most frequently when people who aren't used to high altitudes go fast from lower elevations to 8000 ft (2438 m) or higher. For instance, you arrive in a mountain resort, hike to a high altitude, or might get a headache when you drive over a high mountain pass.

At higher elevations, the pressure of the atmosphere around you (barometric pressure) falls so there's less oxygen in surrounding atmosphere. Some alterations must be made by the body, and this also takes time, although people can live comfortably at fairly high altitudes. Should you ascend to elevations above 8,000 feet, you'll be in danger of growing uncomfortable or from symptoms dangerous the change in elevation.

Symptoms of altitude sickness

Symptoms of altitude sickness that aren't life threatening are called acute mountain sickness. Mountain climbers on any high mountain and skiers in high-elevation places like Colorado are in danger of developing acute mountain sickness. It generally grows between 6 and 24 hours after ascending to high altitude.

Mild altitude sickness

Common symptoms of mild altitude sickness (sometimes called acute mountain sickness) can be similar to some terrible hangover and could comprise:

- nausea and vomiting
- head ache
- dizziness
- loss of desire
- tiredness
- upset stomach
- shortness of breath
- feeling unsteady
- increased heart rate
- feeling unwell
- trouble sleep

The symptoms are often worse during the nighttime.

Acute altitude sickness

Indications of acute altitude sickness can contain:

- relentless, irritable cough
- worsening of the symptoms described previously
- when resting, breathlessness is experienced
- coughing up pink or white frothy liquid
- a bubbling sound in the torso
- clumsiness and difficulty walking
- double vision
- behavior that is irrational
- convulsions (fits)
- confusion
- drowsiness

Acute symptoms could mean you are growing pulmonary oedema or cerebral oedema. All these are possibly life threatening complications of altitude sickness.

Grow at high altitude should be studied quite seriously, since some elevation difficulties can grow into deadly sicknesses. One dangerous response to high altitude is a condition called high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE), where the brain gathers additional fluid, swells and stops functioning correctly. An associated sickness, high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), can happen with or without warning symptoms that indicate altitude sickness. HAPE causes fluid to enter the lungs. A sort of altitude sickness called high-altitude retinal hemorrhage (HARH) can cause eye damage. Death and coma would be the most serious effects of altitude sickness.

Altitude sickness is prone to happen in people who possess an earlier history of altitude sickness. It's more likely should you scale rapidly, should you exercise during your first two or three days of altitude exposure, and for those who happen to be dwelling before your climb at low level. Obesity seems to raise the risk for altitude sickness. Genetics might also get some people at increased risk, especially for high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE).

What causes altitude sickness?

Atmosphere is "thinner" at high altitudes. Quickly, your body cannot get just as much oxygen as it wants. And that means you have to respire quicker. This causes the headache along with other symptoms of altitude sickness. The body gets used to the elevation, the symptoms go away.

In case you have symptoms, how to proceed

Do not go any higher for 24 to 48 hours for those who have symptoms of mild altitude sickness. In case your symptoms do not improve or get worse during this time, you should descend instantly.

Acute altitude sickness is a medical emergency. Someone with acute symptoms seek medical help and should immediately descend into a low elevation.

How is altitude sickness diagnosed?

You have to have the ability to recognize the early symptoms of altitude sickness, when you're at risk because elevation sicknesses may be life threatening, and you also need to see carefully for symptoms.

High-altitude cerebral edema may lead to changes in hallucinations thinking or an unexplained change in style, and makes it almost impossible to walk a straight line. If someone has these symptoms at high altitude, you must presume the individual has high-altitude cerebral edema. A man with one of these symptoms seek medical care and should descend immediately. Once a man who has high-altitude cerebral edema was transported into a medical center, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan might be carried out to validate the reason for the symptoms. An MRI can reveal brain swelling.

is the only symptom, you must quit scaling and take a mild pain reliever. This illness could be diagnosed without tests, should you own a head ache that will not go away or for those who have a few other symptoms that indicate acute mountain sickness.

High-altitude retinal hemorrhage may be diagnosed by means of a doctor who examines the eye using a handheld device called an ophthalmoscope.

Understanding high-altitude pulmonary edema because exhaustion will be the only real indication, could not be easy in its early phases. Symptoms which should be of concern include trouble exercising, dry cough, accelerated heart rate (more than 100 beats per minute), and shortness of breath while resting. Listening to the lungs using a stethoscope may reveal a crackling sound with each breath. They'd be less than anticipated for your own elevation, if blood oxygen levels were quantified. X rays may reveal signals of fluid filling one or even more places inside the lungs, giving an appearance which is comparable to pneumonia.

How Long Does it Last?

If you do not move back down to an altitude in which you last felt nicely and are scaling, your symptoms can be lethal and can worsen. Symptoms from acute mountain sickness will go away after three or two days of rest at a lesser elevation. Acute syndromes like HAPE certainly will need medical attention and potential hospitalization, and can take weeks to evaporate.

How to Treat Altitude Sickness

The primary rule of treatment for moderate symptoms of acute mountain sickness will be to cease until your symptoms are completely gone ascending. For those who do have more serious symptoms or some symptoms of high-altitude cerebral edema, high-altitude pulmonary edema, or blurred vision, you should maneuver to some lower altitude when you can, even supposing it's the middle of the night time. Should you stay at your present elevation or continue going higher, the symptoms will get worse along with the ailment might be deadly.

You should not go any higher for at least 24 to 48 hours in case you have symptoms of mild altitude sickness.

Most instances will improve with this time, but it could be helpful if you:

- drink a lot of fluid (but not alcohol)
- do not work out
- remainder before you feel
- do not smoke

Be sure to inform the people you are going with the way you feel, even though your symptoms are moderate. This can help them be aware of indications of serious affliction, like irrational behavior, should they are developed by you.

Oxygen treatment

A mobile hyperbaric chamber is a tote you are zipped into, which is later pumped filled with atmosphere. After a couple of hours of treatment, your symptoms should improve considerably. The result of the treatment is equivalent to descending about 2,000m (6,500 feet).

Boosting your oxygen consumption with bottled oxygen or mobile hyperbaric chambers (also called Gamow or Certec totes) can help briefly enhance a few of the symptoms of altitude sickness.

But while utilization of a hyperbaric chamber can alleviate the symptoms of altitude sickness, it is not a replacement for descending into a lower elevation. In the event you have acute or worsening symptoms, even though you have had oxygen treatment, you must always descend.

Descending into a lower altitude

When you have mild symptoms of altitude sickness that do not evaporate over the course of 24 to 48 hours, the best thing to do is descend by at least 500m (about 1,600 feet).

When you have acute symptoms or your symptoms are getting worse, descend instantly by just as much height as you can. The reason being serious altitude sickness can be deadly if not treated promptly. When you get to a low elevation seek immediate medical help.

Do not try to scale again until your symptoms have totally evaporated. After two to three days, your system will really have acclimatized and your symptoms should vanish.



Painkillers, for example ibuprofen or paracetamol, may be used to deal with moderate headaches caused by altitude sickness.

Diamox (Acetazolamide)

Altitude sickness can alter the chemical balance of your blood. It is believed that acetazolamide helps correct this chemical imbalance.

Studies have shown that acetazolamide (Diamox) can decrease the harshness of altitude sickness symptoms and may assist in preventing the affliction.

Acetazolamide is not usually licensed for preventing or treating altitude sickness. Yet, it might occasionally be considered for use "off-label" to help prevent altitude sickness in people who have a history of the state. Read more about medications.

You need to let your doctor know when you really have an allergy to any medications before acetazolamide is prescribed. Your doctor will even check your medical history find out if acetazolamide works for you personally.

There certainly are several common but minor unwanted effects linked with acetazolamide, including tingling or numbness of toes, fingers or the face. Some people find these rather distressing, so physicians often suggest trying it at home for just two days in the event that you are more likely to utilize it at elevation before travelling.

Anti-sickness drugs

In case you are experiencing vomiting or nausea, a kind of medicine called an anti emetic could not be useless. Promethazine is an anti emetic medication frequently employed by people with altitude sickness.


Nifedipine is usually used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension), but it may also be helpful in treating high altitude pulmonary oedema. See complications of altitude sickness for more info.

Nifedipine may result in a sudden fall in blood pressure, therefore should you take it, it is important to not get up too fast from a sitting or lying position.

This drug reduces provides blood to the lungs, helping lessen chest tightness and ease respiration. It is generally taken as a pill - to eight-hour time intervals.

Is it possible to prevent altitude sickness?

You might be in a position to prevent altitude sickness by using medication ahead of time taking your time and effort when you go to high altitudes, and eating specific foods.

- don't fly into high-elevation cities. If that is impossible, avoid alcohol, large meals, and being really energetic when you arrive. Remainder, and drink lots of liquids. Tend not to go higher until they've gone away in case you have symptoms. Examples of high-elevation cities contain La Paz, Bolivia; Cuzco, Peru; and Lhasa, Tibet.
- if you're going to elevations higher than 8000 feet, make an effort to invest a night in a moderate altitude. Before visiting the Rocky Mountains in America, as an example, spend a night in Denver.
- Slumber with an elevation that's lower in relation to the elevation you're at through the day. As an example, in case you ski at 9500 feet (2896 m) during the day, sleep the night before as well as the night after at 8000 feet (2438 m). "Climb high, sleep low" is normal practice for people who spend time at high altitudes.
- You might consider taking Diamox (acetazolamide) or perhaps dexamethasone prior to going to a high altitude.2 Chat to your own doctor about that.
- One study revealed that beginning to take ibuprofen 6 hours before scaling to high altitudes and then taking it every 6 hours while scaling may help prevent altitude sickness.1 Ibuprofen could also decrease the symptoms of altitude sickness if you do get it.
- Eat lots of carbs. Including cereals, breads, grains, and pasta.

Slow changes in elevation may aid your own body adjust to the low-oxygen environment and may lower your own chances of growing all sorts of altitude sickness. People adjust at different speeds, however there are four general guidelines for scaling that are practical for climbers to follow

- Each time your altitude increases, spend a second night at this level before going

- don't raise your elevation by more than 1,000 feet per night.

- Drink lots of fluid through your elevation exposure.

- Restrict your physical exertion to acceptable amounts during your first two or three days of ascent.

You are able to keep from getting worse in the event that you descend or should you instantly quit ascending in case you develop early signs of altitude sickness.

What in case you've trouble or alternative disorder?

Pros don't know much about how elevation changes other ailments. Many people with allergic asthma do better at high altitudes. However, when you therefore are going to high altitudes and have asthma, continue to utilize your control medication that is day-to-day and take your quick-relief medication alongside you. Talk to your doctor about altitude sickness if you've long term ailments, particularly heart problems, sickle cell anemia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or sleep apnea.

Complications of altitude sickness

Although uncommon, altitude sickness can also result in potentially life threatening ailments which affect lungs or the brain.

High altitude cerebral oedema

High altitude cerebral oedema (HACE) happens when a dearth of oxygen causes fluid to leak during the capillary walls and to the brain, leading to swelling of the brain tissue. Capillaries are tiny blood vessels that encompass important organs, such as heart the brain and lungs.

Outward indications of HACE can comprise:

- weakness
- head ache
- disorientation
- memory loss
- loss of co-ordination
- loss of consciousness, finally resulting in coma
- hallucinations and an inability to differentiate between imagination and reality

If HACE is not treated promptly, it is not unlikely it'll be lethal. Prompt descent to a lower elevation is important to prevent this.

HACE can happen if an individual ascends to a high altitude quickly or remains at a really high altitude for more or a week. An individual who has HACE may insist they are all right, and frequently does not realize the seriousness of their affliction and desire to be left alone.

The steroid drug dexamethasone may be used to deal with HACE. Oxygen must likewise be given if accessible. Someone with HACE ought to be transferred fast to get follow up treatment.


Dexamethasone may be very helpful for treating acute complications of altitude sickness, such as high altitude cerebral oedema (HACE). This is a powerful steroid that reduces swelling of the brain, and is normally taken as a pill many times a day.

Dexamethasone may cause side effects including stomach upset, trouble sleeping (insomnia) and disposition changes.

The drug is very useful for "buying time" until it is safe to produce a descent. Through the night time, it can be utilized for instance to alleviate symptoms when building may be dangerous or a descent is not possible. Symptoms usually begin to improve within about six hours.

High altitude pulmonary oedema

High altitude pulmonary oedema (HAPE) occurs when fluid accumulates in the lungs. Oxygen being transferred to the bloodstream in the lungs is prevented by the fluid.

As the condition worsens, the quantity of oxygen in the blood declines, which could cause:

- serious breathing issues (even when resting)
- a blue tinge to the skin (cyanosis)
- tightness in the chest
- extreme tiredness and weakness
- a constant cough, bringing up pink or white frothy liquid (sputum)
- behavior
- confusion and disorientation

Nifedipine is a drug which can be utilized to deal with HAPE. Although additional studies are essential to evaluate its effectiveness, dexamethasone can also be useful.

A deficiency of oxygen causes the symptoms of confusion and irrational behavior to the brain, but could also happen in high altitude cerebral oedema. Someone with HAPE should descend immediately to some low elevation, to avoid departure.

As with HACE, someone with the symptoms of HAPE must be transferred to hospital when possible for follow up therapy.

What's the prognosis for someone who gets altitude sickness?

High-altitude pulmonary edema has a great consequence if symptoms are recognized and treated early. If descent is hopeless or if supplementary oxygen hyperbaric treatment, and accessibility to medical care are unavailable, high-altitude pulmonary edema can progress to finally to departure. High-altitude pulmonary edema is the primary cause of death from high altitude illness.

The prognosis for acute altitude sickness is exceptional as long as common sense can be used. Delaying additional rise, remainder, descending, and paying attention to the entire body's symptoms are often all that's needed to guarantee an entire healing.

A lot more than half of people with high-altitude cerebral edema who grow coma expire. Of people who live, coordination flaws and mental disability may continue to change them. High-altitude cerebral edema could be fatal if not recognized and treated immediately.