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Mountain Sickness (cont.)

Altitude Sickness Causes

Altitude sickness develops when the rate of ascent into higher altitudes outpaces the body's ability to adjust to those altitudes.

Altitude sickness generally develops at elevations higher than 8,000 feet (about 2,400 meters) above sea level and when the rate of ascent exceeds 1,000 feet (300 meters) per day.

The following actions can trigger altitude sickness:

  • Ascending too rapidly
  • Overexertion within 24 hours of ascent
  • Inadequate fluid intake
  • Hypothermia
  • Consumption of alcohol or other sedatives

One way to avoid altitude sickness is allowing the body to get used to the altitude slowly.

  • Acclimatization is the process by which the body adjusts to high altitudes.
  • The goal of acclimatization is to increase ventilation (breathing) to compensate for lower oxygen content in the air.
  • To compensate for this extra ventilation, blood needs to have a lower pH. In response, the kidneys excrete bicarbonate into the urine, which in turn lowers the body's pH to accommodate for this extra respiratory effort.
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