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How to Prevent Altitude Sickness When Skiing

Posted Thursday 02 April 2020 11:12 by in Altitude Sickness by Harman Bhamra

From late November to early April, the ski slopes are crammed with those looking to ski, snowboard or just take in the scenery. Although the views are breathtaking in themselves, there’s another thing which might be taking your breath away: the altitude.

Within this guide, you can learn how to prevent altitude sickness while on your winter holiday in the mountains..

What is Altitude Sickness?

When at high altitude, like on top of a mountain, oxygen levels are lower and this can cause a problem known as altitude sickness or acute mountain sickness. The severity of the disorder is variant depending on the individual and the circumstance, with affecting factors including…

  • Age
  • Weight
  • Blood pressure
  • Fitness
  • Speed of ascension
  • Time spent at a high altitude

The most common symptom of altitude sickness is a headache. If you are at a height of over 8,000 feet and have been experiencing a headache it is best to watch out for other symptoms, as if you do have altitude sickness, you should also have one or more of these…

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weakness or exhaustion (hard to determine source when skiing/snowboarding)
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Malaise (discomfort or unwell feeling)
  • Swelling (in the hands, feet or face)

Altitude sickness can be chronic or acute. Acute altitude sickness is generally due to descending to a height too quickly and so not giving your body enough time to adjust.

At What Elevation Do You Get Altitude Sickness?

Altitude sickness can occur when at an altitude of 8,000 feet or above - this is due to the decreased number of oxygen molecules per breath.

Can Skiing Give You Altitude Sickness?

As stated above, the two main causes of altitude sickness are descending too fast or staying at high altitudes for too long - both in which are probable during.

Most ski resorts will have mountains of 8,000 feet or higher, making altitude sickness more than possible.

How Do You Prevent Altitude Sickness When Skiing?

Your body needs up to three days to acclimatize to high altitudes to limit the risk of developing altitude sickness. But, if you do find yourself with symptoms, you should ensure you do not ignore them. Resting, not smoking and keeping hydrated can all be very beneficial. Other prevention methods can include...

Take Altitude Sickness Tablets (Acetazolamide)

It can be wise to plan for the worst and pack some altitude sickness tablets with you on your trip to effectively prevent altitude sickness symptoms or at least ease them.

Acetazolamide increases the amount of urine your body produces, helping to reduce the amount of fluid in your head and lungs. This will improve your ability to breath at a steady pace and relieve symptoms that can follow.

This particular tablet is available at Express Pharmacy and should be taken twice a day. You should begin to do so two-days before travelling and two days after you reach your final altitude.

Stay Hydrated

Skiing can take it out of you, so staying hydrated is key advice even if you are not experiencing altitude sickness symptoms.

In the case of experiencing altitude sickness, it’s important to drink plenty of water - ideally 4-6 litres a day. This should help to relieve symptoms.

Bringing water bottles with you in a backpack is the best way to ensure you are always keeping yourself properly hydrated. You should also pack some snacks with you as well, to keep your calorie intake steady.

You may not want to hear this, but if you do find yourself experiencing altitude sickness symptoms, avoiding alcohol altogether is the best course of action (to prevent further dehydration). Apres skiing is off the table until you recover - better to be safe than sorry!

Research Into Different Skiing Resorts

Doing your research could be the difference between altitude sickness or avoiding it altogether. Choosing your accommodation wisely is a key method of keeping you on top of your game. Satellite hotels are the best option as they will allow you to acclimatise and provide a lower base altitude so that as you gradually ascend higher, your body will be less affected. It’s important to give your body adequate time to adjust.

Know When It’s Time To Descend

You may be tempted to take a break or sit out on a slope or two in hope that you will begin to feel better, but it's important to know when it's necessary to descend the mountain. Moving to a lower altitude is the best course of action, in most cases, even if you simply do so by 1,000 feet for 24-hours. But those with more severe symptoms should do so by 2,000 feet for a few days to be sure symptoms are relieved. The further down you go, the more symptoms will ease, so it is best to do so until you feel as though you are okay to stop.

Main Takeaways…

If you’ve suffered from altitude sickness in the past, it’s wise to equip yourself with altitude sickness tablets to prevent it ruining your skiing holiday. Acetazolamide is available to be delivered to your door from Express pharmacy, making it an effortless precaution to take to get the most out of your trip and avoid any unwanted sickness.


What Causes Altitude Sickness?

Posted Monday 10 February 2020 09:23 by in Altitude Sickness by Harman Bhamra

Have you ever found yourself feeling dizzy when hiking or skiing? If so, then it is likely that you suffer from altitude sickness. Luckily, mild cases of altitude sickness can be cured with help from effective tablets; however, in more severe cases, oxygen therapy might be necessary.

If you are about to embark on another climbing expedition or any other activity where you will find yourself on higher ground, it’s vital to understand the causes of altitude sickness, the symptoms, how to treat it, and how to prevent it in the future. Continue reading to find out more.

What Causes Altitude Sickness?

The most common, and obvious, cause of altitude sickness is high altitude. So, if you are ascending a mountain, or if you climb up too quickly into a zone where the air is thinner, you will be leaving yourself vulnerable to altitude sickness.

To help you further understand the causes of altitude sickness, let’s paint a picture:

The body’s entitlement to oxygen is a crucial component, and when the body doesn’t receive the level of oxygen it’s used to, it’s prone to throw a tantrum, or in this case, make you fall violently ill. So, in really severe cases, altitude sickness can be fatal, which is why you need to be wary about it and learn as much as possible before embarking on a climbing expedition.

On the bright side, if you decide to concentrate your climbing efforts in flatter countries like the UK, you will probably never have to experience altitude sickness - mountains in the UK typically aren’t that high, and the highest peak is about 4400ft. Altitude sickness doesn’t start to kick in until you’re about 8000ft above sea level.

Symptoms of Altitude Sickness

The positive thing about the symptoms of altitude sickness is that they are generally easy to spot once you know what to look for. In most cases, when you are suffering from altitude sickness, you will likely experience”

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath

Those are the most common symptoms, but please note that the symptoms are not limited to this.

For some, the symptoms of altitude sickness could be gastrointestinal, and for such people, a loss of appetite, flatulence and vomiting are likely symptoms.

Altitude sickness can also affect the nervous system leading to weakness, lethargy, dizziness, insomnia, and so on.

Furthermore, the symptoms could also be respiratory, and it is in cases like these when nosebleeds and shortness of breath come into play.

On top of that, sufferers of altitude sickness could also experience swollen body parts, including the hands, feet, and face. In some extreme cases, the illness could lead to swelling of the brain or fluids in the lungs.

How To Treat Altitude Sickness

Treating altitude sickness can be achieved through the use of altitude sickness tablets. The most common drug associated with the alleviation of altitude sickness is Acetazolamide. This drug aids in decreasing headaches, nausea, and dizziness. It can also be used in the treatment of other ailments like glaucoma, epilepsy, and heart failure.

Getting into the nitty-gritty of how altitude sickness tablets work is fascinating. Acetazolamide compels the kidney to excrete bicarbonate when it is then passed out through urine. This, in turn, increases the acidity of the blood and through that tricks the body into assuming that there is a buildup of CO2 in the body. The body then deals with the ‘CO2’ the only way it knows how: through deeper and faster breaths. Moreover, this increases the oxygen in the body and helps to alleviate altitude sickness.

You can purchase Acetazolamide online through Express Pharmacy and in some stores. When using it to treat altitude sickness, it is advised that you start taking the drug a couple of days before you start your climb.

Always check with a medical practitioner before using Acetazolamide to ensure that you are not allergic to it and also have a conversation with a doctor to look over your medical history and ensure that you can use it without any problems.

How To Prevent Altitude Sickness In The Future

As well was taking fast-acting medication, there are also some things that you can do to prevent the symptoms of altitude sickness in the first place.

As mentioned earlier, climbing in the UK is completely safe as there aren’t any punishingly high altitudes that can induce sickness. If you do decide to go somewhere that’s above 8000ft, ensure that you take your time. Climbing slowly allows your body to acclimatize to the environment and, therefore, helps to reduce cases of altitude sickness. Climb about 1000ft a day, and when you do, ensure that you take frequent breaks.

It is also important to have enough fluids around to keep you hydrated and further shielded from the symptoms of altitude sickness. Additionally, avoid alcohol at all costs. It is tempting to want to take a little ‘pick me up’ to celebrate scaling a large mountain or some other achievement, but try to wait until you descend the mountain before indulging in any celebratory drinking.

Get in touch with our pharmaceutical experts on 0208 123 0703 for more information regarding altitude sickness. Alternatively, browse our altitude sickness treatments today to alleviate your symptoms.


The Impact of High Altitude on Pre-Existing Conditions

Posted Monday 02 September 2019 09:07 by in Altitude Sickness by Tim Deakin

altitude sickness

With increasing numbers of people travelling to more remote and exotic locations, journeying to high altitudes has becoming more popular than ever. High altitude is generally defined as any height between 1,500 and 3,500m, with 3,500 - 5,500m being classed as very high altitude and anything over 5,500m classed as extreme altitude.[1]

Altitude sickness can occur when you move between altitudes occurs too quickly for acclimatisation to take place effectively.[2] Mild forms of altitude sickness are known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), while more severe forms can develop into high altitude cerebral oedema (HACO) or high-altitude pulmonary oedema (HAPO).[3]

Symptoms of mountain sickness can change depending on what form of illness you have developed, and how severe it is. The most common symptoms of altitude sickness include dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, lethargy and sleep problems. In more severe cases, these symptoms become worse and are accompanied by headaches, nausea and vomiting, as well as a tightness in the chest. In the most serious cases, the condition can lead to confusion, immobility and a fluid build-up in the lungs.[4]

But for those with pre-existing conditions, avoiding altitude sickness requires even more care and planning.

High altitude and pre-existing conditions

Most people can enjoy travelling to areas of higher altitudes if the necessary care is taken, but travellers with certain medical conditions should seek out medical advice before travelling to make sure their condition is stable, and won’t be worsened by the altitude change.

These conditions include:

Diabetes

Epilepsy

Heart conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease

Lung conditions like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Sick cell disease[5]

Pregnancy also requires greater care in higher altitudes, as the World Health Organisation recommended avoiding altitudes higher than 3000m when pregnant.[6]

Age and disability can also impact the risk of altitude sickness when travelling, so be sure to consult your GP if you feel your chances of developing the condition may be higher.

Precautions against altitude sickness

No matter who you are and how robust your overall health is, it is vital that you take precautions when travelling to high altitudes.

It is generally advised that you avoid travelling from altitudes less than 1,200m to altitudes greater than 3,500m in a single day. When you reach altitudes higher than 3,000m, avoid increasing your elevation by more than 500m a day, and make room for a rest day every three or four days.[7]

If you do begin to develop symptoms of high altitude, don’t continue to ascend. Always attempt to descend if your symptoms worsen or become severe.[8]

Medications like acetazolamide can be used to lessen the impact of altitude sickness, aiding recovery, by causing a mild metabolic acidosis which increases respiratory rate, improving oxygenation.[9]

You can find safe and effective altitude sickness treatment like acetazolamide right here at Express Pharmacy. Get in touch with our pharmacists today by calling 0208 123 07 03 or by using our discreet online Live Chat service.

[1] Hackett, PR. Roach, RC. High altitude medicine in: Wilderness Medicine. 2011

[2] Palmer, BF. Physiology and pathophysiology with ascent to altitude. American Journal of Medical Science. 2010

[3] Charlton, T. PhD. Altitude sickness — a doctor’s story. Bupa UK. 2018

[4] Cleveland Clinic. Altitude Sickness. 2017

[5] NHS Fit for Travel. Altitude and Travel. 2018

[6] World Health Organisation. International Travel and Health: Travellers with pre-existing medical conditions and special needs. 2019

[7] Travel Health Pro. Altitude sickness. 2018

[8] Luks, AM. Et al. Wilderness Medical Society practice guidelines for the prevention and treatment of acute altitude illness. Wilderness Environ Med. 2014

[9] Williamson, J. et al. Altitude sickness and acetazolamide. BMJ. 2018


3 Golden Rules for Staying Safe on a Climbing Holiday

Posted Tuesday 15 January 2019 14:43 by in Altitude Sickness by Tim Deakin

mountain climbing medication

From the right climbing gear to the correct medical supplies, here’s everything you need to know about staying safe while mountaineering

Unlike beach holidays, climbing holidays are often physically demanding as well as enjoyable. Reaching a stunning peak makes all the hard work worth it, but it’s important not to forget about your health and safety when experiencing such extreme environments.

The right gear and careful planning are imperative, as is protection against altitude sickness, which describes a number of conditions that may occur after you have ascended rapidly into a high altitude area.[1]

With that in mind, here are our golden rules for staying safe on your climbing holiday.

Bring the correct gear

It’s important to remember that, while fun, mountaineering also carries many risks. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) reports that there are around 4,000 annual rock climbing accidents, and 1,000 accidents per 100 hours of hill walking.[2]

The correct gear is essential if you want to enjoy your experience safely. As well as the climbing equipment itself, you’ll also need sun protection such as sunglasses, facemasks or balaclavas and a sunscreen which protects against UVA, UVB and UVC rays. You’ll also need cold protection gear such as cold climate clothing, gloves, hats, socks and boots.

Take your time and plan ahead

mountaineering safetyA landmark study on Scottish Mountaineering Incidents by Dr Bob Sharp found that there is a gender difference in the likelihood of experiencing a mountaineering accident. Men, and particularly younger men, are around 8 times more likely to experience a fatal injury. Sharp’s study found that the most common causes of accidents are poor navigation (23%), bad planning (18%) and inadequate equipment (11%).[3]

No matter how big or small, any mountaineering expedition requires careful planning. You need to know exactly where you’re heading and how to get there, sticking to a clear path you’ve already established. If you’re travelling in a group (which is recommended), you’ll need measures in place in case somebody gets lost or injured.

Avoid altitude sickness

Altitude sickness is arguably the most common health risk associated with mountaineering and climbing. It can range from mild to severe or even fatal, as it includes acute mountain sickness (AMS), high altitude cerebral oedema (HACE) and high altitude pulmonary oedema (HAPE).

According to the Himalayan Database, death tolls rise as the altitude increases. Peaks in Nepal with heights between 6,500m and 6,999m have a mortality rate of 0.65%. In peaks over 8,000m, this rises to 2.11%.[4]

This theory is backed up by the NHS’s Fit For Travel, which says that the risk of altitude sickness can rise up to 25% at 2,500m, and up to 75% at heights greater than 4,500m.[5]

Risk factors for altitude sickness can include the rate at which you ascend, the change in altitude itself and the sleeping altitude. It can also be made more likely if you have a history of altitude sickness or an existing cardiovascular disease, though general physical fitness does not protect against it.[6]

In order to tackle altitude sickness effectively, you’ll need to take things slow. Stay hydrated and well-rested, and make sure you bring the necessary medication with you to protect against the condition.

Find safe and effective medication for altitude sickness right here at Express Pharmacy. You can order Acetazolamide from our site and have it delivered to you easily and quickly. If you have any further queries about your health and safety, contact our team. Simply call 0208 123 07 03 or use our discreet online Live Chat service.


The Science Behind Altitude Sickness

Posted Friday 04 January 2019 12:30 by in Altitude Sickness by Tim Deakin

altitude sicknessWhat really happens to your body when you climb?

For many of us, the best way to tackle the winter blues is to book an exciting winter getaway that’s full of adventure. Unfortunately, a lot of the most desirable spots in the world — the Swiss Alps, Machu Picchu and the Rocky Mountains — are also ones which carry a significant risk of altitude sickness.

What is altitude sickness?

Altitude sickness is actually a term which encompasses three different conditions that occur at high altitudes, the first and mildest being AMS: acute mountain sickness. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 25% of visitors to Colorado (the U.S. state with the highest altitude at 6,800 feet above sea level) experience symptoms of the condition. [1]

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the most common symptoms of AMS include fatigue, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, a lack of appetite and difficulty falling asleep.[2] Headaches can occur within two to 12 hours of exposure to high altitudes and, in most cases, symptoms last between 12 and 48 hours, only leading to more long-term concerns if you continue to ascend.

It’s thought that AMS primarily occurs due to the way higher elevation impacts your brain. Ascending to a high altitude causes changes in the blood flow to the brain, and in some individuals this can lead to a swelling of the brain tissues.[3] However, most people who experience AMS will find that descending around 1,000 feet will alleviate the symptoms, according the CDC.[4]

Altitude sickness complications

In severe cases however, brain swelling can occur on a more significant scale, leading to a much more serious form of altitude sickness: high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE). This form of altitude sickness impacts the blood flow to the brain tissue, preventing the brain from being able to function normally. The tell-tale symptom that AMS has progressed to HACE is ataxia, or loss of balance. Other symptoms include intense fatigue and confusion, and prolonged brain swelling can lead to loss of consciousness or even death.[5]

High-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) is another possibly life-threatening complication which can result from altitude sickness. It can occur on its own or alongside AMS and HACE. HAPE occurs when fluid collect in the lungs, resulting in difficulty breathing.[6] The blood flow of the lungs begins to get erratic and cause more pressure in some pulmonary arteries than others. As the air sacs in the lungs fill up, your ability to oxygenate the blood decreases, causing a greater lack of oxygen.

According to the CDC, symptoms can include headaches, shortness of breath, increased heart rate, heart palpitations, fever, chest pain, fatigue and a mucus cough. It can become fatal even more quickly than HACE.[7]

Treating and preventing altitude sickness

altitude sickness medicationTaking things slowly and giving your body time to adjust is key to avoiding altitude sickness. The CDC advises that you should not travel from a low altitude to over 9,000 feet in a single day. Instead, they recommend increasing your sleeping altitude by no more than 1,600 feet a day.[8]

You should also make sure to stay hydrated and avoid substances like alcohol when climbing.[9] Effective altitude sickness relief medication can help you to travel safely and without worry.

Contact the Express Pharmacy team today by calling 0208 123 07 03 or by using our discreet online Live Chat service.