Altitude Sickness

Altitude Sickness

Acute Mountain Sickness - problem is lack of oxygen and is especially relevant to smokers and those with heart problems

Considering that there are some popular destinations where you might get AMS without climbing mountains: Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, and Tibet, how can this problem be overcome?


Altitude Sickness

Having just returned from Peru recently, the following things helped me and my husband avoid serious symptoms of AMS:   A few weeks prior to our trip we began a workout program heavy on cardio; on the plane and while you are at high altitudes, avoid alcohol and drink PLENTY of water; don't try to do too much, especially the first day; and most importantly, get a prescription for DIAMOX and begin taking it 2 days before your trip. 

Re: Altitude Sickness

mario wrote:

Acute Mountain Sickness - problem is lack of oxygen and is especially relevant to smokers and those with heart problems

Not true. In fact most smokers have much less problems with oxygen, maybe because they are used to lower oxygen levels, who knows.

There is a multitude of things that can go wrong despite the oxygen. Lower oxygen levels are only part of the problem and most people should be fine. There is also the reduced pressure which can be a much more severe problem.

Fortunately for the latter there is medication as Karen outlined already.

We have seen many people who had problems with Oxygen, but it is not really predictable. There were strong and healthy guys who had to be put on O2 and there were chain smoking elderly people having no problem. I guess there is not much you can do to influence this.

I would not worry too much though. I have been at 4800m without a problem. Only climbing or running made me realize where I was when I had to gasp. 

Re: Altitude Sickness

andre wrote:

pressure which can be a much more severe problem. Fortunately for the latter there is medication as Karen outlined already.

Be careful, people with allergies against sulfonamides cannot take this medication (DIAMOX). I am one of them, so I had to do without it Also note that you shouldn't have sparkling drinks when taking Diamox to prevent from the carbohydrates exploding in your mouth.

But there is another helpful medication that you can buy at any Andean Pharmacy : CORAMINA GLUCOSA. You can get it without prescription. It hardly has any side affects and you can combine it with the Coca Tea which also gives relief from the symptoms.

andre wrote:

I would not worry too much though. I have been at 4800m without a problem. Only climbing or running made me realize where I was when I had to gasp. 

Lucky you. Problems started at 2500m and I experienced the full bandwith. You probably did not have problems because of the Diamox.

Re: Altitude Sickness

Sunflower wrote:

Lucky you. Problems started at 2500m and I experienced the full bandwith. You probably did not have problems because of the Diamox.

Possibly. Except Dani got some irritating twitching in the face. It was only 1 or 2 month after the vacation when I accidentaly stumbled across this as a side effect of Diamox while .

As I said, it can hit everyone. Just because you are healthy doesn't mean you won't get it. In the Andean Explorer I saw a man collapse at over 4000m. He had to be put on Oxygen.

It is also important to ascend slowly. I would not recommend making Puno your first stop in Peru. Machu Picchu is far lower.

Re: Altitude Sickness

andre wrote:

It is also important to ascend slowly. I would not recommend making Puno your first stop in Peru. Machu Picchu is far lower.

You're right about that!   We landed in La Paz and on to Puno the first day and that was my very worst day.   Perhaps that's why I felt so good the rest of the trip...as they say, it was all downhill from there!

Re: Altitude Sickness

KWARD93 wrote:

You're right about that!   We landed in La Paz and on to Puno the first day and that was my very worst day.  

I would say you got lucky there. I would almost say its reckless, but at least you got away easy.

Some people, when arriving at those altitudes need to be hospitalized or even evacuated to lower altitudes. Usually tour agencies make sure that wont happen.

Our agent told us to go to Arequipa (Colca Canyon) first, then to Cusco (Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu) and then to Puno (Lago Titicaca). He failed to mention, that the tour to Colca Canyon from Arequipa (our second day) went over a pass that is 4900m high. Fortunately our time up there was limited, as the Canyon itself is lower again.

KWARD93 wrote:

Perhaps that's why I felt so good the rest of the trip...as they say, it was all downhill from there!

Downhill in a good way I assume  

Re: Altitude Sickness

Quote:

Some people, when arriving at those altitudes need to be hospitalized or even evacuated to lower altitudes. Usually tour agencies make sure that wont happen.

Our agent told us to go to Arequipa (Colca Canyon) first, then to Cusco (Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu) and then to Puno (Lago Titicaca).

Some of our group did have serious problems.  One spent two nights in hospital.  After returning, several people have said the same as you have but I don't know why our tour took us to the higher altitudes first. I Dunno 

Quote:

Downhill in a good way I assume  

Definitely a good way.   

Karen, would you care to

Karen, would you care to write a short description of your trip? You can keep it short and post it in the forum or write a larger one for the main page. I would surely like to read about it. 

 

Andre Check out my Photos

Sorry it took me so long to

Sorry it took me so long to reply.  I've never put my writing skills to such test, but I'll give it a try and see what happens.  

Re: Sorry it took me so long to

KWARD93 wrote:
I've never put my writing skills to such test, but I'll give it a try and see what happens.  

Thanks. Let me know if you need any help or if you would like to submit anything via email (use the Contact Us Forum to get email contact.) 

Don't worry about writing skills. We are not trying to be perfect, just having fun. 

This has been an

This has been an enlightening topic.  I take Diamox every single day, so it would probably do nothing for me under those special circumstances, correct?  I also have pulmonary problems so would it be best for me to totally avoid extremely high altitudes for extended periods of time? I haven't even flown since I've gotten so sick, will I have problems?

Re: This has been an

Scooter wrote:
This has been an enlightening topic.  I take Diamox every single day, so it would probably do nothing for me under those special circumstances, correct? 

Didn't even know there were other uses for Diamox. I guess you have problems with the water in your body? From what I can gather, you should stay away from high altitudes. I guess this is also why you have trouble flying?

The air up there is much thinner than in airplanes. If you ever plan to visit higher altitudes, you should be o.k. if you plan more time to ascend to these levels.

There is no problem up to 2000m. From there I would not do more than 500m every 2 days. Then you should be fine. You just have to plan the trip accordingly.

A lot of people do it without Diamox. Its for chickensh*ts like me .

Re: Altitude Sickness

mario wrote:

Acute Mountain Sickness - problem is lack of oxygen and is especially relevant to smokers and those with heart problems

I guess this is not relevant only to smokers but to everyone who loves climbing. The higher the altitude you go, the thinner the air becomes. Better prepare yourself before going in such a trek. Even veteran climbers can suffer this kind of sickness if they haven't prepared their bodies for such conditions. The quantity or volume of oxygen in the air in high places is very low and so you must breathe twice your normal breathing so that your whole body will function. I guess we know what will happen to the person who lacks oxygen.

Re: This has been an

andre wrote:

Scooter wrote:
This has been an enlightening topic.  I take Diamox every single day, so it would probably do nothing for me under those special circumstances, correct? 

Didn't even know there were other uses for Diamox. I guess you have problems with the water in your body? From what I can gather, you should stay away from high altitudes. I guess this is also why you have trouble flying?

The air up there is much thinner than in airplanes. If you ever plan to visit higher altitudes, you should be o.k. if you plan more time to ascend to these levels.

There is no problem up to 2000m. From there I would not do more than 500m every 2 days. Then you should be fine. You just have to plan the trip accordingly.

A lot of people do it without Diamox. Its for chickensh*ts like me .

Yes, I do have many problems with water retention.  I take Diamox and Lasix on a daily basis.  I never knew my health issues could cause problems with altitude.  Amazing.  I haven't been anywhere with a high altitude since these medical issues began.  Are there dangerously high altitude destinations in the U.S.?  I'd very much love to know where exactly to avoid.  When we go to the mountains, it's in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee... that area.  They're problematic to my ears, but I don't think the altitude there is bad.  But, like I said, I haven't been there since I've been sick.  What I'm wondering about is places like Colorado, there are higher mountains there, and it's somewhere we're actually considering going. 

Re: This has been an

Scooter wrote:
Are there dangerously high altitude destinations in the U.S.?  I'd very much love to know where exactly to avoid.  When we go to the mountains, it's in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee... that area.  They're problematic to my ears, but I don't think the altitude there is bad.  But, like I said, I haven't been there since I've been sick.  What I'm wondering about is places like Colorado, there are higher mountains there, and it's somewhere we're actually considering going. 

I doubt it. Altitude sickness is no issue below 2000m and even then only in the rarest cases. Thats more than 6000 feet. Denver is a mile high, so you will be fine there.

You only have to be worried about ascending too quickly. As far as I know, there is no airport in the US that is that high. If you start below 2000m and slowly ascend (climbing) you will be fine.

Haleakala (Maui) is 10,023ft high. You can drive up there from sea level in less than one hour. Usually you should not have a problem there, but just in case you will be o.k. if you drive back down in case you get problems. Mauna Kea (13,796ft) and Mauna Loa (13,677ft) peaks on the Big Island are even higher, but you are not allowed to take a Rental Car up there anyways.

If you have a little trouble breathing you don't have to worry. The problem will be if you feel nausia and dizzy. This is an indication of too much pressure in your brain. In this case you should descend immediately.

As I mentioned earlier, if you take it slow, you will probably have no problem going even higher. Generally I would say anything below 7,000ft you don't even have to think about. If you plan to go higher, just take it slow.

Andre

My Travel Photos

Well that's a relief. 

Well that's a relief.  Since I'm probably never gonna take up mountain climbing, I feel safe.  Although I'll have to cross "conquering mt everest" off my "to do" list. :)  I'm seriously loving this forum. So much valuable information is available here.  Things that would have never crossed my mind.  Thanks!!

altitude sickness

We are a family of 8 that are flying to Albuquere , New Mexico ( staying overnight here) and than renting cars to travel to Taos and than up to Red River, NM which is 8500 ft. We will be staying in Red River for 6 days. I am getting panic from reports from friends that we all might get altitude sickness (which I had never even heard of as we don't travel much ) and want to know if there is anyone out there that can give us advice. We called the children's doctor (there will be 4 of them) and asked about the drug Diamox and she would not prescribe it ( I don't think she knows anything about it as she said it can only be used for glaucoma). We have a call into our regular M.D. and are waiting for the call back. If these doctors won't prescribe this medicine what should we do? 

Hello Babs

Altitude sickness cannot be predicted very well. Some people get it and others don't.

In general I would say 8500 ft are not to worry about, especially if you don't stay long.

Most symptoms will come after about a day or so.

Generally you might feel a little lightheaded and you might have a pounding headache, but those things are not really something to worry about. If you throw up, then I would start to worry.

All guides I ever read say, if you get hit hard, you should decent. In any case, you should be in a position to get down quickly.

Most people will feel absolutely nothing at 8500 and I don't believe that this altitude can be life threatening to anyone (but I am not a doctor either). I also don't think you should have to take Diamox. I experienced some side effects like a change in taste and a tingly sensation on my skin.

Get some Gatorade and take it with you. As you ascend, you body will get rid of water (to equalize pressure) and you will lose electrolytes (happened to me, I got a bit queazy because of it, but that was at 14000 ft.

I did a quick search and came up with this site, it has good information but don't get scared too much. Some people tend to read too much about this and get too frightened:

http://www.traveldoctor.co.uk/altitude.htm

They are mainly talking about very high altitudes. You will not experience the severe symptoms.

I would only worry about 8500ft if I had a prior condition (heart problems, asthma ...). 

Some of the symptoms they mention I wouldn't even consider altitude sickness (like shortness of breath). It is very natural if the air is a bit thinner, you cannot perform like you are used to.

Here is a funny anektode:

When we climbed into the crater on Haleakala (Maui) I was surprised to see so many people coming out of the crater, blowing like a steam engine. I even joked about it.

Well everything changed when I had to climb back up. I ran out of breath quickly (Haleakala is about 10,000ft). However this is not altitude sickness, its simply thin air.

Hope this helped to calm your nerves a bit. 

Andre

http://www.aguntherphotography.com

It isn't even consistent

It isn't even consistent with one person.  I know someone who had no problems on Kilimanjaro. The next year she tried to climb Mt. Kenya (lower), and she was sent back down by the guides.  She claims she was in better shape than she had been the previous year.

 Altitude is a real problem for people with high blood pressure, as it will soar as the air pressure decreases.  Severe altitude sickness is deadly, and if you get really sick you should head for a lower altitude.  Even a  hundred meters can make a difference. The air thins at an exponential rate.  So the difference between 3000 meters and 3100 meters is a lot more than the difference between 2400 meters and 2600 meters.  I couldn't feel the latter, but I can tell the difference between 3000 and 3100. 

There are lots of places in the US where people have mild to severe problems, including Denver.  I did meet someone who flew into Quito and felt sick the entire week he was there.  He couldn't understand it because he goes to Denver a lot and never has trouble, and he figured this was about the same.  He was stunned when I told him it was twice as high.  I was stunned that he knew so little about his destination.

cindy wrote:  Altitude is

cindy wrote:
 

Altitude is a real problem for people with high blood pressure, as it will soar as the air pressure decreases. 

  

Interesting. I sometimes have very high blood pressure (I have had up to 200 some times) but at 16,000 I was one of the ones left standing. Maybe I didn't have high blood pressure that day, but overall I felt awesome at these altitudes.

cindy wrote:
 

Severe altitude sickness is deadly, and if you get really sick you should head for a lower altitude.  Even a  hundred meters can make a difference. The air thins at an exponential rate.  So the difference between 3000 meters and 3100 meters is a lot more than the difference between 2400 meters and 2600 meters.  I couldn't feel the latter, but I can tell the difference between 3000 and 3100. 

Hm. I believe the reason you felt the difference as much, was that 3000 was your limit that day (you can easily go higher but need to aclimatize a bit). I believe air pressure is inversely proportional to alittude, so the difference between 2400m and 2600m should be greater.

When we landed in Arequipa, all our cremes and toothpaste shot out of the tube when we opened them (the pressure in the tube was still greater then the outside).

Conversely when we returned from Puno (about 14,000 ft or about 4250m) to Lima (sea level), a water bottle I had closed in Puno was crushed by the air pressure at sea level. Quite funny.

I was just uploading some photographs from two weeks ago, when I noticed that Lake Sabrina is over 9000ft high. Didn't feel a thing though.

Andre

Peru Photos

Most people feel something

Most people feel something in Denver, which is only 5000 feet.  It also depends on what you do.  Where I lived in South Africa was at about 4000 feet, and I felt nothing until I decided to go jogging about a week after I arrived and barely lasted ten minutes.  I was used to running for at least half an hour.  I didn't notice anything until I pushed myself a bit.

 I still think the air thins more rapidly the higher you go, but maybe I'm thinking of the rate of change rather than an absolute number.  It's something like it goes down by half for every x number of feet. Maybe I should just be quiet and do some research.  I just looked all this up last year. 

Yup

cindy wrote:

I still think the air thins more rapidly the higher you go, but maybe I'm thinking of the rate of change rather than an absolute number. It's something like it goes down by half for every x number of feet. 

Thats pretty much how I remember it too.

I just wasn't sure if shortness of breath due to thinner air is considered altitude sickness? Basically to me altitude sickness always meant getting sick without working out.

I was had some trouble climbing up the slope of the crater in Haleakala, but I wasn't feeling sick, I had no headache and I felt no nausia. I just had to go slower.

Maybe I was taking it too literally. 

Andre

Travel Photos

My family usually goes to

My family usually goes to Estes Park, Colorado for a family reunion every year. A couple of years ago, my dad got so sick with altitude sickness, he was miserable the whole time. He's a tough old German, not a complainer by any stretch of the imagination, but he had no appetite and spent most of the time resting in a chair or in bed. The next year, we did a Caribbean cruise, and he got along great. The year after that, we went back to Estes, and what do you know, no altitude sickness! He got a little tired with exertion, but since he's almost eighty I guess that's to be expected. Funny how sometimes it affects people and sometimes it doesn't.

You may say this again,

You may say this again, people with high blood pressure need special health care while traveling as high altitude can be a real problem for them. My mom almost died last year while she traveled by plane. I got really scared back then and I we went to a doctor immediately, the medic prescribed her norvasc to lower the blood pressure and specifically advised her to avoid plane travels.

Strange experience with altitude sickness

I had a strange experience with altitude sickness when I was in Peru. When I first arrived in Cusco, I had the usual headache and a little difficulty breathing. Nothing serious I thought. I started the Inca Trail and it was very difficult for me, but I finished it. While on the trail, my legs knees and lower legs began to hurt, but I thought it was just from the hike and the stairs. I didn't bother looking at my legs to see what was wrong because I just assumed it was the hiking. When I got back to Cusco, my legs still hurt when walking. The next day I noticed something strange with the area from my knees down to my feet. They were huge! My legs were so swollen! I wasn't sure what was wrong. At 1:00 am that night, though, I woke up because I was having difficulty breathing. I thought maybe it was because my sinuses were so clogged. I just needed some medicine to clear my sinuses. I thought I could wait it out until morning. I couldn't lie down because I couldn't breathe, so I tried to sit up and wait it out. However, I found myself nodding off every once in awhile, but I also found that whenever I nodded off, I would stop breathing and immediately wake up. I tried to get help from the hotel and from my tour group, but the reps phones were off and the hotel wasn't very helpful. Also, my phone in my room didn't work. When a doctor finally came to the hotel, he took my blood pressure twice. The first time it was 165/110 and the second time it was 180/115. It was a scary experience for me. I still have nightmares about having difficulty breathing. I haven't been able to find any information about symptoms similar to mine anywhere on the web. Why did this happen after so many days at high altitude? I have never had trouble with high blood pressure before.