High-Altitude Sickness

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Every year, people head for the mountains for skiing, snowboarding, backpacking and other activities. If youre headed to a mountainous region this summer, you may want to take steps to avoid high altitude sickness. Dr. Edward Hill explains more about the condition in todays 60 Second Housecall.

Dr. Hill:

The low amount of oxygen in the air at high altitudes causes high-altitude illness. This may cause you to feel ill. If you stay at a high altitude for a long time, your body gets used to the low oxygen level.

There are three main types of high-altitude illness: acute mountain sickness, high-altitude pulmonary edema, which affects the lungs, and high-altitude cerebral edema, which affects the brain. These illnesses can be serious, but they can also be prevented.

Some of the first signs of high-altitude illness are headache, lightheadedness, weakness, trouble sleeping and an upset stomach. More severe symptoms include difficulty breathing while youre resting, coughing, confusion and inability to walk in a straight line. If you get these symptoms, go to a lower altitude right away and get help from a doctor.

Dont ignore signs of high-altitude illnesss. People can die of high-altitude illness if they dont recognize the signs or if they dont believe their illness is caused by the high altitude.

For North Mississippi Medical Center, Im Dr. Edward Hill.