This is one reason why altitude sickness should be taken very seriously — the symptoms can be deadly. In one recent instance, a woman died on the Conundrum Hot Springs trail from High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE), two effects of operating at a higher altitude.
3. Altitude sickness can affect anyone.
While altitude sickness tends to be most noticeable in visitors to a high-altitude area, one high-country doctor is on a mission to spread the word that even long-term residents of high-altitude towns can fall victim to the condition. That being said, certain groups are considered to be at higher risk, including: those coming from sea-level or near it, those that have had altitude sickness before, those ascending quickly, and those with certain medical issues involving the lungs, heart, and nervous system.
4. Symptoms can easily be misdiagnosed.
With symptoms like fatigue, headaches, respiratory issues, and congestion, it’s easy to misdiagnose altitude sickness, thinking that it’s something else. Two things it can often get mistaken for are pneumonia and asthma.
5. You can take preventative steps.
According to one doctor-reviewed article, five steps can help you prevent altitude sickness. These include (1) delaying exercise for the first few days at altitude, (2) avoiding alcohol for the first couple days at altitude, (3) sleeping at a lower altitude, (4) if recommended by your doctor, taking medications like acetazolamide to help the body adjust, and (5) ascending into higher altitude at a slow rate, preferably not more than 1,000 feet a day. Another tip that tends to be passed around is to stay hydrated.
6. When you notice the symptoms, take action.
The quickest response to altitude sickness should be immediate descent to a lower altitude. This can often relieve mild symptoms. Oxygen supplementation is another treatment option. If you’re new to a high altitude area, it’s never a bad idea to buy a portable can of oxygen — just in case. Additionally, medicines like dexamethasone and acetazolamide can be used, though you should always check with a doctor first.