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Altitude Sickness

Advice and prevention tips for altitude sickness

Altitude sickness, or acute mountain sickness (AMS), is a condition caused by exposure to low pressure and oxygen levels commonly experienced when at high altitude. It presents itself initially as breathing difficulties. The condition can progress to high altitude pulmonary oedema, fluid in the lungs, as well as cerebral oedema, swelling of the brain, and is considered life threatening if left untreated and not handled appropriately. It can be experienced by climbers and hikers above 2,500 feet.

In order to successfully prevent this from happening, you can buy clinically proven treatment that can help prevent altitude from OnlineClinic. These can help avoid altitude sickness when taken before and during ascension. The treatment we have to offer is called Diamox, which can be ordered at OnlineClinic today.

Dr Hilary Jones Dr Hilary Jones
OnlineClinic Medical Advisor

"Altitude sickness occurs when you climb high up a mountain too quickly, which can cause a number of uncomfortable symptoms. Treatment taken alongside acclimatisation can help."

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  • Can be prescribed to prevent altitude sickness
  • A helpful precautionary treatment to use acclimitisation methods
  • Available in tablet form, so it is easy to take
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What is altitude sickness?

When individuals ascend into higher altitude, the body may struggle to find sufficient oxygen. While even at altitude oxygen levels remain similar to that of low altitude ranges, the air density and the number of oxygen and nitrogen molecules can decrease as altitude increases. This means less oxygen is available for inhalation and in turn less is being used by the body for mental and physical exertion. Altitude sickness occurs when the amount of oxygen in the blood reaches this level, making breathing difficult as the body struggles to inhale enough to function normally.

Altogether there are three forms of altitude sickness. These are:

  • Acute mountain sickness (AMS) – No obvious symptoms up to 2500m and is equivalent to airplane pressure. This isn't considered to be fatal.
  • High altitude pulmonary oedema (HAPO) – Fluid collects in the lungs, starving an individual of oxygen. This can be fatal within hours.
  • High altitude cerebral oedema (HACO) – Affects internal fluids and induces a coma. Can be fatal within a few hours

Altitude sickness causes

As the oxygen density decreases as altitude increases, if individuals are not careful, the same process can occur inside the body. This is usually as a result of climbing into higher altitude too quickly before acclimatisation can happen, where the body would be able to adapt to the reduction in oxygen inhaled. It takes a few days for this adaptation to happen, but if not observed symptoms of altitude sickness may start presenting themselves including severe reactions if altitude continues to rise.

Altitude sickness symptoms

Symptoms may present themselves differently depending on the individual but the most recognisable symptoms are:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Exhaustion
  • Dry cough
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath

This situation may indicate pulmonary oedema, where the lungs are slowly beginning to fill with fluid.

In the case of cerebral oedema, where the brain begins to swell, this will present as gradual loss of consciousness, retinal haemorrhage or bleeding of the retina inside the eye and increased nausea. Both of these situations should be treated as a life-threatening emergency and medical attention should be administered immediately, coupled with descending from high altitude.

Treating altitude sickness

Prescription medication

The prescription medication Diamox, acetazolamide, may help prevent altitude sickness but is designed to be taken before even beginning to climb higher into altitude. It may be effective once symptoms begin to occur, but it's more effective when taken pre-emptively. The medication also needs to be used regularly during ascension.

Herbal remedies

A known natural remedy that is used for the treatment of altitude sickness is ginkgo biloba extract. However, there is an insufficient amount of evidence to prove that this herbal remedy can make a significant difference when used to treat altitude sickness. Therefore, prescription medication is still viewed by medical professionals to be the most effective form of altitude sickness available.

Preventing altitude sickness

Listed below are some methods that can be followed to prevent the occurrence altitude sickness:

  • The most effective way to prevent altitude sickness is to simply let the body acclimatise to the higher altitude before climbing further and doing any strenuous activity. Acclimatisation to effectively reduce the chances of altitude sickness and AMS usually takes between one or three days, depending on the individual.
  • Alcohol should be avoided during this period as it can exacerbate the condition.
  • Eat foods high in carbohydrates.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • If you experience any altitude sickness symptoms you should not climb any higher.

Buying treatment

If you are planning on hiking or climbing in regions where you may experience altitude sickness you can buy clinically proven altitude sickness tablets from OnlineClinic. The treatment we offer for altitude sickness is Diamox (Acetazolamide). This highly effective treatment guarantees that you can avoid altitude sickness, as well as the symptoms associated with the condition, such as nausea, exhaustion and shortness of breath. To order Diamox, simply complete a free online consultation procedure. For more information about this treatment please visit the Diamox product page.

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