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Definition

Altitude sickness, also known as mountain sickness, can be defined as a feeling of uneasiness when you don't get enough oxygen from air at high altitudes. The degree of altitude sickness may vary from mild to very severe.

Symptoms

Depending on the degree of altitude sickness one may experience, the symptoms may be the following:

For mild cases:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swelling up of limbs

For severe cases:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Crackling sound while breathing
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Pink frothy phlegm
  • Severe headache
  • Seizures
  • Disorientation
  • Altered vision
  • Hallucinations
  • Coma

Risk Factors

The following are the risk factors for altitude sickness:

  • Travelling to extreme heights
  • Existing heart or lung conditions
  • Quick movement to high altitudes
  • Anaemia
  • History of acute mountain sickness

Diagnosis

Basic diagnosis of altitude sickness includes experiencing any of the afore mentioned symptoms after having climbed an altitude of at least 2500 feet. If early symptoms such as headache and nausea surface, one must stop climbing immediately and preferably descend to a lower and comfortable altitude.

Treatment

Depending on the degree of altitude sickness you have, the following treatment and medication should be taken:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Descending to a lower altitude
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Resting properly
  • Getting pure oxygen
  • Medication such as Acetazolamide, Dexamethasone and Nifedipine may also be prescribed
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