High Altitude Sickness - What You Need To Know


high altitude travel heartsense.jpg

Are you planning a trip trekking uphill? Maybe a trip to Kailash Manasarovar?

High altitude travel is now a part of everyone's travel journal. However, it could be riddled with health problems, mostly due to the lower oxygen content in the thinner air in these altitudes. Before you embark on such a holiday, you must understand what high altitude sickness is.

Let’s take a look at this in this article.

What Is Altitude Sickness?

When travelling up a steep hill, the air becomes thinner. This means the quantity of oxygen in the air reduces as well. This lack of oxygen can precipitate a number of symptoms. This cluster of symptoms that occur is called altitude sickness.

Why Does Altitude Sickness Occur?

The lack of oxygen to the brain at the high altitude will make you breath faster and harder. This in turn can lead to the
symptoms.

What Are The Symptoms?

The primary symptom of altitude sickness is a throbbing headache. It is usually worse in the night and may be even worse in the morning. Nausea and vomiting may occur. Disturbed sleep is common. Some people may feel extreme fatigue.

To start off with, the symptoms may be mild.

They usually begin after climbing or arriving quickly at a height of around 8000 feet (around 2.4 km). It is not just the headaches that can lead to symptoms. Altitude sickness can also affect your brain. This leads to a loss of balance and an inability to walk in a straight line. This is called ‘ataxia’.

Breathing difficulty may also occur. This can lead to low oxygen levels in the blood, causing the fingers and tongue to become blue. In severe cases, the lungs may fill up with water. This is a life threatening problem requiring immediate treatment.

Diagnosis And Treatment

High altitude sickness is diagnosed based on clinical symptoms.

If you begin to experience symptoms of high altitude sickness, try descending to a lower altitude. If your symptoms are mild, you could wait a little while until your symptoms start to settle.

However, if they become severe, seek medical attention immediately.

Often, just descending to a lower altitude is enough. It could take a day or 2 for the symptoms to settle however. Simple
painkillers can help treat the headache. Make sure you are well hydrated. Oxygen treatment may be needed.

If you are with someone who is suffering from this condition, make sure you accompany them when they descend down to a lower altitude until they get the medical attention they need.

Preventing High Altitude Sickness

Speak to your doctor on how you can prevent high altitude sickness. One way is to commence a tablet called acetazolamide, which helps adjusting to higher altitudes quicker and easier. It also prevents migraine effectively.

Some people may be prescribed 'viagra' to keep the pressures within the lungs low.

A slow ascent is a better idea than a quick ascent. Avoid alcohol and heavy meals. Make sure you eat plenty of carbohydrates and a balanced, nutritious meal. Speak to your doctor about whether you can travel if you have asthma or a chronic lung condition.


Comments 2