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Mountain Sickness

more about Mountain Sickness

Altitude sickness, altitude anoxia

  • Mountain sickness occurs at heights above 8000 feet (2400 meters) when a climber attempts to ascend too rapidly, risking damage to the body's nervous system (brain), cardiovascular system (heart), respiratory system (lungs), as well as other structures, such as muscle and blood cells.

  • Decreased oxygen pressure
  • Decreased atmospheric pressure

  • Dry cough
  • Dizziness and headache worse on lying down or changing position
  • Hemoptysis (coughing up blood)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Facial swelling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Confusion and Coma
  • Vision abnormalities

  • The symptoms need to be recognized and evaluated immediately.
  • There may be crackles when the physician listens to the lungs using a
  • There is rapid pulse rate (faster than 100 beats per minute).
  • A chest radiograph (X-Ray) will show fluids in the lungs.
  • Swelling around the brain may show up on a head CAT scan.

  • Higher the climb, greater the risk of complications
  • Seen in climbers, skiers, hikers, and high altitude plane crash survivors
  • Risk increases if there is a history of blood disorders (i.e., anemia), heart
    or lung disease

  • Provide oxygen immediately
  • Take the patient to lower altitude as fast as and safe as possible.
  • Sitting the person up helps the breathing
  • Diuretics help breathing by forcing the patient to urinate extra fluids
  • If the breathing rate is too slow and Coma is present, mechanical
    ventilation (respirator) maybe necessary.
  • Diamox and similar medications can be taken before a climb to reduce the
    risk of mountain sickness.

  • Before a climb, make sure you are well versed in the techniques and
    dangers involved with high altitude climbing.
  • Be in excellent shape and climb with experts if you are inexperienced.
  • If you have heart, lung, or other medical conditions consult your physician
  • Once climbing, ascend gradually -- at 8000 feet (2400 meters) stop
    1-2 days for each additional 2000 feet (600meters) -- so that your body will
    have time to adjust.  Bottled oxygen must be available for hiking above
    8000-9000 feet.

  • Heart Failure due to other conditions
  • Lung disease
  • Blood disorders such as anemia
  • Stroke or hemorrhage in the brain may produce Coma or confusion
  • Drug overdose

more about Mountain Sickness

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