High altitude cerebral edema; Altitude anoxia; Altitude sickness; Mountain sickness; High altitude pulmonary edema
Keys to preventing acute mountain sickness include:
- Climb the mountain gradually
- Stop for a day or two of rest for every 2,000 feet (600 meters) above 8,000 feet (2,400 meters)
- Sleep at a lower altitude when possible
- Learn how to recognize early symptoms of mountain sickness
If you are traveling above 9,840 feet (3,000 meters), you should carry enough oxygen for several days.
If you plan on quickly climbing to a high altitude, ask your doctor about a medication called acetazolamide (Diamox). This drug helps your body get used to higher altitudes more quickly, and reduces minor symptoms. It should be taken the day before you climb, and then for the next 1 to 2 days.
If you are at risk for anemia, ask your doctor if an iron supplement is right for you. Anemia lowers the amount of oxygen in your blood.
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Avoid alcohol
- Eat regular meals, high in carbohydrates
You should avoid high altitudes if you have heart or lung disease.
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Schoene RB, Swenson ER. High Altitude. In: Mason RJ, Murray JF, Broaddus VC, Nadel JA, eds. Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2005: chap 65.
Wright A, Brearey S, Imray C. High hopes at high altitudes: pharmacotherapy for acute mountain sickness and high-altitude cerebral and pulmonary oedema. Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2008;9(1):119-127.
Yaron M, Honigman B. High-altitude medicine. In: Marx, JA, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa : Mosby Elsevier; 2006: chap 142.
Review Date: 01/05/2011
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington, Clinic. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.