Magazine article Geographical

Altitude Sickness: Medical Advice from Jason Gibbs, Head Pharmacist at Nomad Travel Stores and Health Clinics

Magazine article Geographical

Altitude Sickness: Medical Advice from Jason Gibbs, Head Pharmacist at Nomad Travel Stores and Health Clinics

Article excerpt

There are several illnesses associated with high altitude, the most common of which is Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), which occurs above 2,400 metres and is characterised by shortness of breath, headache, dizziness and drowsiness. Anyone can suffer AMS, so even the fittest trekker should exercise caution at high altitudes.

While the symptoms of AMS aren't serious, if left unchecked they may develop into high altitude pulmonary oedema (HAPE) or high altitude cerebral oedema (HACE). These have the same symptoms as AMS, but in HAPE's case also include a productive cough and severe breathlessness, and in the case of HACE, sufferers may experience hallucinations, psychotic episodes and 'inappropriate behaviour'. Both of these illnesses are potentially fatal and must be treated immediately. If initial symptoms of AMS are identified, it's vital that the sufferer doesn't climb any higher until they've fully receded. Ideally, however, descent is the only answer--and is imperative in cases of HAPE or HACE. A drop of just 300 metres can make all the difference.

Prevention

Acclimatisation is vital when ascending to high altitude so, wherever possible, don't ascend more than 400 metres per day. …

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