Altitude Related Illnesses

1. Acute Mountain Sickness. Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is a self-limiting illness due to the rapid exposure of an unacclimatized individual to high altitude (i.e., helicopter crash on a mountain). Approximately 25% of individuals who ascend rapidly to 8,000 - 9,000 feet will develop AMS. Virtually, all un-acclimatized persons who rapidly ascend to 11,00 - 12,000 feet will develop AMS.

(a) Signs and symptoms include; apathy, dizziness, easily fatigued, nausea, decreased appetite, headache. Can be misdiagnosed as dehydration. If adequate fluid intake is maintained and headache still persists rule out dehydration.

2. HACE. HACE or High Altitude Cerebral Edema is swelling of the brain

(a) Sign and symptoms are similar to AMS and accompanied by bizarre behavior, hallucinations, confusion, and severe cases - coma.

3. HAPE. High Altitude Pulmonary Edema is the filling of the lungs with fluid.

(a) Signs and symptoms include; persistent cough with pink frothy sputum, shortness of breath, disorientation, fainting, cool and clammy skin, blue lips

(1) Treatment Descend, Descend, and Descend. HACE and HAPE can result in death.

(2) Prevention Gain elevation slowly. 10,000 feet move 1000 feet per day over 14,000 move no faster than 500 - 1,000 feet per day. Rest and acclimatize your body.

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