- Descent is the best remedy for all the stages of altitude sickness. It means to go down to a lower altitude as swiftly and safely as possible.
- For mild headache, rest and over-the-counter pain killers may provide relief. Most of the symptoms will typically go away quickly at a lower altitude. Maintaining adequate water intake may help.
- Inhaling oxygen provides quick relief from symptoms. Some experienced climbers and hikers carry a portable oxygen chamber, called a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, with them. It is a body bag that is pumped full of air. On inflating, the bag increases the oxygen concentration. This allows the person in the bag with altitude sickness to breathe in more oxygen. This simulates going to a lower altitude.
- Having 70% of the diet as carbohydrates may also keep AMS at bay.
- Acetazolamide is one of the medications for the prevention and treatment of altitude sickness. It increases the breathing rate allowing more oxygen to be taken in. This helps the body adjust to higher altitudes faster and reduces some of the symptoms of altitude sickness.
- Dexamethasone is another important medication, especially if the person develops brain swelling (brain edema). It is generally reserved for moderate to severe form of altitude sickness.
- Nifedipine is another medication that is used for the prevention of lung edema in Altitude Sickness.
What is altitude sickness?
What causes altitude sickness?
Altitude sickness occurs when a person moves to a higher altitude too quickly. This does not give time to the body to adjust to the low air pressure and low oxygen at high altitudes. The symptoms happen due to low oxygen (hypoxia) in the air and blood causing the blood vessels of the brain to swell (dilate). The dilated blood vessels in the brain may cause headaches and swelling of the brain. The swelling puts pressure on the brain, squeezing it against the skull.
Altitude sickness may rarely advance to a more severe form of the illness called high altitude cerebral edema (HACE). HACE occurs when brain swelling becomes severe manifesting as severe headache, confusion, lethargy, lack of coordination, irritability, vomiting, seizures, coma and eventually death if untreated.
In some cases, the low oxygen causes the lungs to become leaky and accumulate fluid. This is called high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE). This may cause cough, chest discomfort, pink frothy sputum and heart failure.
Who is at risk for altitude sickness?
Altitude sickness may affect anyone regardless of their age, gender or level of physical fitness. Altitude sickness is directly related to how rapid the climb to high altitude is. It is more likely to occur if the climbs are more difficult and take more strength and energy than with a slow and easy climb.
Some of the factors that determine a person’s risk for altitude sickness are:
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Common Medical Abbreviations & Terms
Doctors, pharmacists, and other health-care professionals use abbreviations, acronyms, and other terminology for instructions and information in regard to a patient's health condition, prescription drugs they are to take, or medical procedures that have been ordered. There is no approved this list of common medical abbreviations, acronyms, and terminology used by doctors and other health- care professionals. You can use this list of medical abbreviations and acronyms written by our doctors the next time you can't understand what is on your prescription package, blood test results, or medical procedure orders. Examples include:
- ANED: Alive no evidence of disease. The patient arrived in the ER alive with no evidence of disease.
- ARF: Acute renal (kidney) failure
- cap: Capsule.
- CPAP: Continuous positive airway pressure. A treatment for sleep apnea.
- DJD: Degenerative joint disease. Another term for osteoarthritis.
- DM: Diabetes mellitus. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
- HA: Headache
- IBD: Inflammatory bowel disease. A name for two disorders of the gastrointestinal (BI) tract, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
- JT: Joint
- N/V: Nausea or vomiting.
- p.o.: By mouth. From the Latin terminology per os.
- q.i.d.: Four times daily. As in taking a medicine four times daily.
- RA: Rheumatoid arthritis
- SOB: Shortness of breath.
- T: Temperature. Temperature is recorded as part of the physical examination. It is one of the "vital signs."
Ginkgo BilobaGinkgo biloba is a leaf extract used as a dietary supplement with recommended uses such as altitude sickness prevention, reduction of cardiovascular disease risk, cerebral vascular insufficiency, cognitive disorders, dementia, dizziness and vertigo, intermittent claudication, macular degeneration, glaucoma, memory loss, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), sexual dysfunction, and vasodilation. Common side effects of Ginkgo biloba include gastrointestinal upset, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, headache, weakness, dizziness, vertigo (rare), restlessness, seizures, palpitations, and others.
How Long Can Altitude Sickness Last?Altitude sickness usually resolves by itself within six to 48 hours. All the symptoms should subside completely within three days.
Motion SicknessMotion sickness is a feeling of unwellness caused by the inner ear and balance systems. Motion sickness can include sea sickness, car sickness, and train or plane sickness. Symptoms include, headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, cold sweats, and pale skin. Treatment for motion sickness includes home remedies such as ginger, avoiding large or fatty meals prior to traveling, and OTC and prescription medications.