Altitude Sickness

Anyone travelling to high altitudes (above 6,000-8,000 feet) needs to know the signs and symptoms of altitude sickness. It can happen to anyone. There is no way to screen for your risk. Physical fitness and training does not matter. If you have had altitude sickness in the past, you are more likely to have it again.

The symptoms usually begin about 6 to 12 hours after higher altitude. They are similar to what one may experience with a very bad hangover: headache fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.

Here’s what happens in altitude sickness. The body is trying to adapt to the new altitude and in the process, blood vessels become leaky.

There are certain medications you can take to prevent and treat altitude sickness. One such medication is acetazolamide (Diamox). It works by acidifying the blood and thus increasing the breathing rate. This medication is related to sulfa drugs and should not be used by those allergic to sulfa. There also have been reports of people with penicillin allergy having allergic reaction to acetazolamide.

A type of steroid called dexamethasone has also been shown to help and is an option for those that cannot tolerate acetazolamide.