Altitude Sickness: Symptoms, Treatment & Medication

Altitude Sickness: Symptoms, Treatment & Medication

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is commonly known as Altitude Sickness. Some people also call it Mountain sickness. It is a reaction to our body when we ascend mountains or go to higher places than the places our body is acclimatized to living in.

Our body adapts to the environment we live in. When we suddenly go to higher places than the places we live in, a group of sickness starts to show up. That condition is called Altitude Sickness.

Why does it happen?

Altitude Sickness: Symptoms, Treatment & Medication

When we go to higher places, barometric pressure ( the pressure of air that is around us) drops and we get less amount of oxygen. People living in higher places are already used to the environment around them and are used to breathing the air that is low in barometric pressure. But, the people who are living in low places are not used to the air pressure of high altitude places so when they travel to high altitude places, their body doesn’t get enough oxygen which results in sickness with certain symptoms. It happens to everyone. Even to those who are young and physically fit. Younger people stand a better chance of getting this sickness than older people.

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Generally, the symptoms start to show up when we go 8000 feet (2438.4 M) above sea level. However, it also depends on the people. The symptoms take 6 hours to 24 hours to develop. Some can easily adjust to the air pressure above 8000 feet.

Altitude Sickness: Symptoms, Treatment & Medication

Types Of Altitude Sickness

There are three types of Altitude Sickness

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)

It is a common condition of the sickness because the symptoms in this stage are mild. Dizziness, headache, muscular pain, nausea are some of the symptoms a person can experience in this stage.

High Altitude Pulmonary Edema ( HAPE)

In this stage, fluid is buildup in the lungs. If not treated, it can be dangerous.

High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE)

This is the most complicated form of sickness because, in this stage, fluid is a buildup in the brain.


Altitude Sickness: Symptoms, Treatment & Medication

Here are the symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness ( AMS)

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of Energy
  • Fatigue
  • Sleeping disorder
  • Shortness of breath

Here are the symptoms of High Altitude Pulmonary Edema ( HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE).

  • Confusion
  • Difficulty in walking
  • Coughs that have white or pink froths
  • Coma


Altitude Sickness: Symptoms, Treatment & Medication

The best way to treat Altitude Sickness is to walk down to lower elevations. If you cannot abandon your trek then you are advised to go for an acclimatization walk before going further up. When you have gone to elevations, you need to stay there for a few days to get acclimatized to its surrounding air. Going for a walk around the place without going further up helps your body adjusts to its air pressure.

If you need to hike or climb more than 10,000 feet, walk or hike only 1,000 feet per day and rest in that elevation for at least one day before setting forth again.

If you have severe sickness then you can opt for the following treatment methods

  • Stop and rest
  • Take paracetamol or Ibuprofen for headache
  • Stay hydrated
  • Do not smoke or drink alcoholic beverages
  • Do not exercise
  • Eat diets that have high calories

Related Topic: Tips for Travelling Around Nepal

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