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What Causes Altitude Sickness?

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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.