Treating acute mountain sickness
Acute mountain sickness is your body’s reaction to the lack of oxygen which is caused due to reduced air pressure at high altitudes.
There are certain terms that can also be substituted for acute mountain sickness such as hypoxia, Acosta’s disease, altitude illness, and acute high altitude sickness. Acute mountain sickness can pose a problem for hikers who climb high altitudes, travellers or skiers because at high altitudes the pressure of the air is lower than it is at ground level. Acute mountain sickness can be severe at certain stages if it is not diagnosed and treated at the earliest.
Causes of acute mountain sickness
The main cause of altitude sickness is the lack of sufficient oxygen. As we go to higher altitudes, oxygen levels in the air we breathe decreases, and as a result, the oxygen supply to the muscles and other organs of the body also decreases. Due to the lack of oxygen in the blood stream, your heart begins to work harder to try to meet the oxygen demands. The rate of breathing also increases in order to absorb more oxygen for the tissues of the body. If there is a deficiency of oxygen despite these two compensatory mechanisms, the result may be death.
Symptoms of acute mountain sickness
Symptoms can be mild as well as severe and may include:
- Nausea and loss of appetite
- Fatigue, dizziness and headache
- Rapid heart rate, coughing and shortness of breath
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Cyanosis (blue colored skin)
- Tightness of chest
- High altitude pulmonary edema
- Facial edema
Risk factors leading to acute mountain sickness
There are certain risk factors that can increase the probability of acute mountain sickness. Altitude sickness is seen more in people who live near to the sea and those who go to higher altitudes. People suffering from any lung disorder or heart disorder are also more prone to this disorder.
Examinations and tests
To manage acute mountain sickness, there are certain tests that should be performed such as blood tests, CT scan, ECG and X-rays of the chest.
Treatment of acute mountain sickness
As the lack of oxygen can be dangerous, it is necessary to carry pressure bags and oxygen during mountaineering. The easiest way of preventing mountain sickness is descending from heights. People suffering from mountain sickness should follow certain rules such avoiding physical workout at higher altitude, try not to ascend in case of headaches which may be an early sign of acute mountain sickness.
If a person is unable to walk a straight line he or she must avoid going to higher altitudes as this is the indication of brain swelling and nervous system problems.
Besides this, drinking plenty of water is useful. In some cases, acetazolamide medication is also suggested by doctors.
If a person is suffering from headaches, acetaminophen can be taken. Sleeping pills should not be taken as they can interrupt with breathing process.
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