What is it?
Altitude Sickness refers to a group of illnesses that result from a lack of oxygen when someone is at high altitude
The most common form is acute mountain sickness or AMS
What are the symptoms?
Headache, insomnia, fatigue and shortness of breath for two to five days while your body is getting used to being at high altitude AMS is a warning signal
More serious conditions involving fluid in the lungs or on the brain can be fatal within hours
How can I get it?
By ascending too quickly at altitudes typically above 2400m
AMS is rare below 2,400m but you should be aware of it if you will be ascending above 2,000m
High altitude and rapid ascent increase the incidence and severity of AMS
Forty percent of those who ascend rapidly to 3,000m get AMS
It happens to 75% of those who ascend rapidly to 4,500m
How can I prevent getting altitude sickness?
Rapid ascent increases your risk of developing symptom
Ascend gradually above 2,000m
Follow the maxim: “Climb high and sleep low”
You can climb more than 500m in a day as long as you come back down and sleep at an altitude no more than 300m higher than the altitude of the previous night
Stay well hydrated and eat a diet high in carbohydrates and low in salt
People who have chronic conditions like obstructive airway disease, congestive heart failure, pulmonary hypertension, or sickle-cell anemia can experience severe medical complications at high altitude
Those who have epilepsy, cardiac arrhythmia or sleep apnea should also be cautious
Pregnant women should not ascend beyond 3,500m
If you will be flying directly into a location at high altitude speak to TMVC about taking Diamox® as a preventative medication
What is the treatment?
Do not ascend further while you are experiencing AMS
Rest and take over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen or aspirin
Drink plenty of fluids while your body adapts to the altitude In more serious cases, some people may need supplemental oxygen and to descend to a lower altitude
Avoid alcohol and other sedatives
Acetazolamide (Diamox®) is a prescription medicine that can reduce the incidence and severity of AMS by helping you acclimatize faster