Air pressure and oxygen levels vary with altitude. Therefore, as you go higher, you need to give your body time to adjust to the variation. Failure to which may lead to altitude sickness. While age and sex don’t make a difference, some people might be more prone to illness than others. For instance, someone who has experienced altitude sickness before is more likely to experience it again.

What Causes Altitude Sickness?

Higher altitudes have lower air pressure, as well as lower oxygen levels. In response to the adjustment, your body will increase the breathing rate. However, even with the increased breathing rate, blood oxygen does not get to normal levels. Therefore, your body needs to make changes to function with less blood oxygen than usual. Altitude sickness comes as a result of inadequate adjustment time.

Types of Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness can be categorized into three kinds:

• Acute mountain sickness, which is the mildest

• High altitude pulmonary edema, which is the moderate level

• High altitude cerebral edema, which is the most severe

How to Tell if You Have Altitude Sickness

When you have altitude sickness, you might have symptoms such as lightheadedness, nausea, and vomiting. However, some symptoms are specific to the kind of altitude sickness you are suffering from.

Mild Altitude Sickness

You might notice signs 12-24 hours after arriving at high elevation areas in case of mild altitude sickness. You might notice symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Besides, you might also experience trouble sleeping. However, these signs tend to fade away within a couple of days after adjusting to high altitudes.

Moderate Altitude Sickness

Moderate altitude sickness can be life-threatening. If you are experiencing it, you might show signs such as nausea, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Unlike with mild sickness, these symptoms tend to get worse as time goes by. Besides, you might also experience difficulty in doing everyday activities such as walking, as well as the intense headache that is normal pain relievers.

Severe Altitude Sickness

You can experience severe altitude sickness if there is fluid in your brain. Just like the moderate level, severe altitude sickness is life-threatening and needs immediate medical attention. Symptoms include a pale skin tone, confusion, and acute shortness of breath.

Treating Mountain Sickness

If you notice altitude sickness signs, you can alleviate them by descending to lower altitudes, followed by seeking medical attention. Alternatively, pure canned oxygen can help you recover quickly.

If you are planning on a trip to or moving to an area with high altitude, remember these signs of altitude sickness. This will help you prevent a life-threatening illness and keep you comfortable. 

About the author

Emma Sturgis

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