Altitude Sickness Can Pose Serious Health Risks

Sunday, September 14, 2008 by: Deanna Dean
Tags: altitude sickness, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) Who doesn't love a sweeping view from a high summit? Adventure activities such as hiking, skiing in the mountains, and mountain climbing are among our favorite pastimes. The public's access to these kinds of activities is more accessible now than in the past.

As we've seen in tragic news reports of emergency rescues, this easy access has brought dire consequences for the unprepared and inexperienced novice.

Whether you're in a car, hiking a trail, skiing or mountain climbing, you need to prepare for all contingencies. An important contingency is altitude sickness.

If you reach higher altitudes without proper preparation or time to acclimate to lower oxygen levels, you run the risk of getting altitude sickness. You body needs time to adjust. The closer you live to sea level, the more probability you will develop problems and take longer to make the adjustment because the body is unaccustomed to functioning with so little oxygen.

Many of us already know this, but most of us are unaware that severe altitude sickness could be fatal.

Symptoms typically begin to appear at 8,000 feet. If you, or someone in your group, develop a headache, become dizzy and nauseated, are fatigued or short of breath, begin coughing, have a bluish tint around the mouth or fingernails or have swelling of the hands and face, then the symptoms would point to a relatively mild case of altitude sickness. Often you can stay at that elevation, refrain from exercise for a while and the symptoms will disappear. If they do persist though, drop down to a lower elevation and wait until the symptoms subside.

There are two important progressions in the sickness that you especially need to evaluate beside the symptoms of mild altitude sickness.

One is high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) and the other is high altitude cerebral edema (HACE).

The signs that someone has HAPE or HACE and is in need of medical help are: hallucinations, visual disturbances, inability to walk a straight line, paralysis or loss of sensation in any part of the body, coughing up blood or when they take a deep breath you hear fluid in their lungs, and their heart and respiratory rate are elevated. Any of these conditions would dictate an immediate descent to lower elevations and medical attention.

Though not completely understood, high altitude and low air pressure may also cause capillaries to leak fluid into the brain and lungs.

There are things you can do beside going to Big Pharma for prescription medications traditionally prescribed to neutralize the effects of lower oxygen levels.

You can increase your water intake before and during the activity. Eat a high calorie diet comprised mostly of carbohydrates for energy. Climb, ski or hike slowly at a rate of no more than 1,000 feet per day at altitudes above 8,000 feet and sleep at least 500 feet lower than your highest point that day. For example, if you skied up to 10,000 feet then you might avoid feeling the effects of thin air at that elevation if you sleep the night before, and the night after, well below 10,000 feet.

Be knowledgeable of the symptoms that would alert you to altitude sickness; prepare, and trust that in most instances this remarkable body of ours will eventually acclimate so you can enjoy your adventure.

Your health mate,

Deanna Dean







About the author

Deanna Dean is the Wellness Director for Your Health Coach, a company dedicated to health and wellness education.
Dee is a Wellness & Weight Loss Coach, a Certified Natural Health Professional, is pursuing an ND degree-Naturopathic Doctor, is a certified Raw Chef, certified in Dietary Guidelines from the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research, former Personal Trainer, Yoga and Fitness Studio Owner, TV and Radio Guest, Health Columnist.
Deanna develops customized programs to enhance the health of her clients, educates, and coaches dieters for safe weight loss.

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