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Acute mountain sickness

  • Alternative Names

    High altitude cerebral edema; Altitude anoxia; Altitude sickness; Mountain sickness; High altitude pulmonary edema


    Symptoms range from mild to life-threatening, and can affect the nervous system, lungs, muscles, and heart.

    In most cases, the symptoms are mild. Symptoms generally associated with mild to moderate acute mountain sickness include:

    • Difficulty sleeping
    • Dizziness or light-headedness
    • Fatigue
    • Headache
    • Loss of appetite
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Rapid pulse (heart rate)
    • Shortness of breath with exertion

    Symptoms generally associated with more severe acute mountain sickness include:

    • Bluish discoloration of the skin (cyanosis)
    • Chest tightness or congestion
    • Confusion
    • Cough
    • Coughing up blood
    • Decreased consciousness or withdrawal from social interaction
    • Gray or pale complexion
    • Inability to walk in a straight line, or to walk at all
    • Shortness of breath at rest

    Signs and tests

    Listening to the chest with a stethoscope (auscultation) reveals sounds called crackles (rales) in the lung, which may be a sign of fluid in the lungs.

    A chest x-ray may be performed.