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High Altitude Sickness Prevention and Treatment

High altitude sickness Prevention and Treatment

High altitude sickness Prevention and Treatment

For people who are not accustomed to living in high-altitude environments, Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) or Altitude Sickness is a common occurrence when travelling to sites with elevations of approximately 8,000 feet (2,400 meters above sea level) and above. This means popular destinations like Everest Base Camp, Annapurna Base Camp, Upper Mustang, Kanchenjunga Base Camp, Makalu Base Camp, and other high-altitude sites present a risk of AMS for hikers, skiers, and adventurers. Especially because these locations are usually remote, it’s important to recognize and identify the symptoms of AMS and how to deal with them.

What to Watch Out For Altitude Sickness

AMS is caused by a lack of oxygen and decreased air pressure which can be experienced during skiing, mountain trekking, or flying when the body does not have enough time to adapt to the change, or too much energy is exerted. This can lead to a range of symptoms, including:

  • dizziness, nausea, or vomiting
  • headaches and muscle aches
  • loss of appetite, irritability
  • swelling in feet, hands, and face
  • shortage of breath
  • Increased heartbeat severe cases include coughing, chest congestion, skin discolouration, and loss of balance and walking ability.

These cases can lead to damage in the cardiovascular as well as muscular and nervous systems and should be dealt with urgently; worst-case scenarios can result in a coma or death. Less severe cases should also be dealt with immediately before they can progress.

Treatment of High Altitude Sickness

In non-severe cases, AMS can be resolved by descending to a lower altitude, hydrating with water, resting between activities and before ascending to a higher altitude. Symptoms can take from a few hours to a few days to subside. However, oxygen may be administered if there is swelling in the brain and fluid in the lungs. Patients may also be prescribed a range of medications, including acetazolamide to aid breathing, dexamethasone to reduce swelling in the brain, aspirin for headache relief, and blood pressure medicine.

Prevention of High Altitude Sickness

Fortunately, most people can prevent the onset of AMS with conscientious planning. This includes ensuring good physical health before exposure to high altitudes (such as assurance of no serious health conditions and reasonable fitness levels). Doctors can prescribe acetazolamide to be taken before climbing. Trekkers can also plan their route accordingly to allow for gradual ascent and rest days (usually done in 2,000 ft intervals).

Keeping hydrated, carrying oxygen when ascending above 9,000 ft, eating regular, high-carbohydrate meals and avoiding unnecessary exertion (and allowing for plenty of rest) will also help prevent AMS.

Take Note If Altitude Sickness

You suffer from heart and lung disease. Therefore, your cardiovascular system will experience strain under high altitudes. Also, consult the doctor before climbing to high altitudes if you take medications that lower breathing rates, like narcotic pain relievers, tranquillizers, and sleeping pills.

People who suffer from anaemia should also consider taking iron supplements before trekking to high altitudes. Low red blood cell counts mean less oxygen in the blood, which high climbs will extenuate.

Like any illness, AMS can be prevented and treated accordingly with conscientious planning, an acute awareness of its symptoms, and sufficient access to the right resources for treatment.

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