What is Altitude Sickness?
Altitude sickness, or acute mountain sickness, is a condition which can affect anyone at high altitude. In its mildest form, altitude sickness can occur at heights over about 2,500m above sea level. However, the more severe symptoms of altitude sickness tend to occur at altitudes of 3,600m and above.
The faster you climb to a high altitude, the more likely you will get acute mountain sickness. Your symptoms will depend on the speed of your climb and how hard you exert yourself.
Altitude sickness is due to a combination of reduced air pressure and lower oxygen levels at high altitudes. It is a potentially life-threatening condition because you cannot take in as much oxygen.
How common is Altitude Sickness?
Altitude sickness is fairly common among those who spend time at high altitudes, such as mountaineers and skiers.
You are at higher risk for acute altitude sickness if you live at or near sea level, or if you have had the illness before.
It is not possible to get altitude sickness in the UK because the highest mountain, Ben Nevis in Scotland, is only 1,344m high.
What are the symptoms of Altitude Sickness?
Mild symptoms of altitude sickness include difficulty sleeping, dizziness, fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting, rapid pulse and shortness of breath on exertion.
More acute altitude sickness causes bluish discolouration of the skin, confusion, a persistant cough, breathlessness of resting, coughing up pink frothy liquid, bubbling sound in the chest, decreased consciousness, irrational behaviour, difficulty walking, double vision and convulsions.
How is Altitude Sickness treated?
The main treatment for altitude sickness is to descend to a lower altitude as quickly and safely as possible. People with severe mountain sickness may need to be treated in hospital, with medication, oxygen, and a breathing machine in severe cases.
If you have not received treatment or advice, or suffered any symptoms in the past five years choose a moratorium product.