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Mountain Sickness

Mountain sickness

Altitude sickness, the mildest form being acute mountain sickness (AMS), is the negative health effect of high altitude. It is caused by rapid exposure to low amounts of oxygen at high elevation.

Mountain sickness is due to a rapid ascent to higher altitudes  due to the decreasing amount of oxygen .

  • There are three main types of altitude sickness. Acute (mild) altitude or mountain sickness (AMS), high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) and high-altitude cerebral edema.
  • The cause of altitude sickness is the decreasing amount of oxygen available as altitude increases.

What are the first signs of altitude sickness?

  • Early symptoms of altitude sickness include

Headaches, fatigue and insomnia.

  • Later symptoms include

Shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, respiratory failure, cerebral edema, coma, and


  • Many people with mild acute mountain sickness require no medical care. But as symptoms worsen, emergency medicine physicians, hyperbaric chamber experts and critical care specialists may need to be consulted.
  • Altitude sickness is usually diagnosed by the patient’s clinical condition. Occasionally other tests such as chest X-ray, head CT and/or MRI scans are utilized.

What is the best remedy for altitude sickness?

  • Some people can use self-care or home remedies, such as simply descending to a lower altitude. This  help reduce symptoms or cure altitude sickness
  • Medical treatment for altitude sickness may include oxygen, hyperbaric treatment, and medicines. Moreover over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications and antinausea medications can help. However, definitive treatment is for the patient to go to a lower altitude.
  • Most people with self-curing acute mountain sickness do not need a follow-up with a health-care professional. However, those that develop high-altitude pulmonary edema  may require more extensive follow-up with their doctors.
  • Prevention of altitude sickness is by acclimatizing the body to increasing altitude. Prevention of acute mountain sickness is sometimes with acetazolamide medication.

How long does altitude sickness last?

  • The prognosis for a person that gets altitude sickness depends on the severity of the sickness. Acute mountain sickness can usually resolve with no problems. But patients that develop high-altitude pulmonary edema  have a more guarded prognosis. About 50% of individuals that develop coma with high-altitude cerebral edema die