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Mountain Sickness (cont.)

Altitude Sickness Prevention

Altitude sickness is preventable. The body needs time to adjust to high altitude. Physical conditioning has no bearing on this.

  • For people who do not know the rate at which their bodies adjust to high altitude, the following preventive measures are recommended.
    • If traveling by air to a ski area above 8,250 feet (2,500 meters), incorporate a layover of 1-2 days at an intermediate altitude.
    • Avoid physical exertion for the first 24 hours.
    • Drink plenty of fluids, and avoid alcoholic beverages.
    • Consume a high-carbohydrate diet.
    • If mountain climbing or hiking, ascend gradually once past 8,000 feet (2,400 meters) above sea level
    • Increase the sleeping altitude by no more than 1,000 feet (300 meters) per 24 hours. The mountaineer's rule is "climb high, sleep low." This means that on layover days, a climber can ascend to a higher elevation during the day and return to a lower sleeping elevation at night. This helps to hasten acclimatization.
  • The doctor may prescribe acetazolamide (Diamox) to prevent acute altitude sickness. This medication speeds acclimatization.
  • If rapid ascent is unavoidable, as in rescue missions, or if a person is prone to developing HAPE, the doctor may also prescribe nifedipine (Procardia). Nifedipine is normally used to treat high blood pressure.
  • Prevention of high altitude cerebral edema (HACE) is the same as for acute altitude sickness.
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