Treatment for altitude sickness

Treating Frequent Headaches with Pain Relievers: Don’t take them too often

Many people suffer from frequent, severe headaches, especially those with migraine. These headaches need careful treatment, with a focus on prevention. Talk to your doctor about ways to prevent and treat your headaches.

  • Limit use of over-the-counter pain drugs. If you are taking them more than two days a week, cut back.
  • Avoid using prescription drugs containing opioids or butalbital, except as a last resort.

It is easy to use too much pain medicine. This can make headaches worse and cause other. Many people suffer from frequent, severe headaches. However, it is important to limit the use of over-the-counter and prescription drugs. medical problems. Here’s why:

Over-the-counter pain medicines can have dangerous side effects.

Aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen often work well for headaches if you don’t use them often.

But if you take these drugs too often, you can get serious side effects. In rare cases, if you often take acetaminophen a number of days in a row, you can damage your liver. This can happen even if you take just a little over the recommended dose.
Rarely, these drugs can also cause kidney problems. Aspirin and ibuprofen can, at times, cause stomach bleeding.

Watch out for overuse headaches.

If you take pain medicines for headache too often, they may no longer help as much, and you may also get headaches more often. This worsening of headache is called “medication overuse headache.” Although all drugs used for treating individual migraine attacks can cause medication overuse headache if taken too often, the following drugs are the most likely ones to cause overuse headaches. They may also make you more sensitive to pain:

Prescription drugs:

  • Drugs with butalbital (Fiorinal, Pronal, Trinal, and generics)
  • Opioid painkillers
    • Codeine (Tylenol 3 and other brands and generics)
    • Hycodon (5 mg)
    • Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet, others)
    • Morphine

Some pain drugs can cause addiction.

Drugs that contain opioids or butalbital can make you drowsy. Long-term use of these drugs can cause addiction or physical dependence, in addition to overuse headaches.

Some people need headache treatment for years, or even decades. They should take addictive drugs only if safer treatments don’t work. If you do have to take addictive drugs, ask your doctor how to avoid overuse and addiction.

Lifestyle changes can help some people with severe headaches.

Often, you can prevent headaches or have them less often if you:

  • Reduce stress, or learn to cope with it more effectively.
  • Drink a minimum amount of alcohol.
  • Get enough sleep, and maintain a regular bedtime and wake time.
  • If you still get headaches more than once a week, you can consider taking a daily preventive drug.

If you need pain relief during a bad migraine, drugs called triptans work well for most people. They usually have fewer side effects than other prescription drugs. There are seven triptans approved by Health Canada, and with the exception of frovatriptan, they are all available as generics.

Tips to help you manage headache pain:

Keep a record of each headache. Note possible triggers—foods, beverages, sleep patterns, or other things that cause your headaches.

Reduce triggers. For example, consider using tinted glasses to reduce the effects of bright light.

If menstruation routinely leads to migraines, ask your doctor if you could ward off headaches by taking naproxen sodium regularly for a few days around your period.

Simple changes can sometimes prevent headaches:

  • Cut back on alcohol.
  • Control the effects of stress with bio-feed-back, meditation, relaxation, or in other ways.
  • Don’t skip meals.
  • Aim for 7 to 8 hours sleep each night. Go to bed and wake up around the same time. Don’t watch TV or use a computer in bed. If you snore, ask your doctor if you should be checked for sleep apnea.

If you need preventive drugs, start with safer choices. Choose drugs that have been proven to work. Many options are available and the choice should be based on your medical history. Discuss your options with your doctor.

Visit the Canadian Headache Society’s website for more information.

Which is better for a headache: Acetaminophen or ibuprofen?

For most run-of-the-mill headaches, it’s usually best to try acetaminophen (Tylenol and generic) first. It doesn’t pose the risk of stomach bleeding and heart attack associated with the regular use of most nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), a class of painkillers that includes ibuprofen (Advil and generic).

But acetaminophen comes with its own caveats. It’s not as effective at relieving pain as NSAIDs, and high doses can damage the liver. People who are heavy drinkers or have cirrhosis of the liver or hepatitis should use acetaminophen with caution. Do not take more than the maximum daily amount of 4,000 mg per day—the equivalent of eight extra-strength 500 mg capsules daily, and be sure to follow the product label instructions carefully.

If acetaminophen doesn’t relieve your pain, consider ibuprofen or naproxen (Aleve and generic). Both are Consumer Reports Best Buys. Naproxen may be a better choice if you have higher risk of heart attacks or strokes, since studies suggest it does not increase the risk of these conditions.

If you are at increased risk of bleeding due to older age, because you take aspirin or other blood thinners, or have a history of prior bleeding or ulcers, talk to your doctor before taking any of these painkillers.

Finally, strange as it may sound, overuse of these medications can actually cause headaches. That problem is known as “rebound headaches.” So use these treatments only when needed, and see your doctor if you experience daily or almost daily headaches.

For more details on these and other pain medications, check out our free Best Buy Drugs report on NSAIDs.

Treating Migraine Headaches: Some drugs should rarely be used

Migraine attacks can last for hours—or even days. They can cause intense pain, nausea and vomiting. They can make you sensitive to light or noise and they can affect your life and work.

To treat migraines, you may be given a prescription for an opioid (narcotic) or a barbiturate (sedative) called butalbital. These are pain medicines. But you should think twice about using these drugs for migraine. Here’s why:

These drugs can make headaches worse.

Using too much pain medicine can lead to a condition called medication overuse headache (MOH). Two kinds of pain medicine are more likely to cause MOH:

  • Drugs containing opioids—such as codeine (Tylenol-3 and generics), morphine (Statex and generics), Hycodan (5 mg) or oxycodone (Percocet and generics).
  • Drugs containing butalbital (Fiorinal, Pronal, Trianal and generics).

They are not as effective as other migraine drugs.

There are other drugs that can reduce the number of migraines you have and how severe they are—better than opioids and butalbital. Even in the emergency room—where people with severe migraines often ask for opioids—better drugs are available, including triptans.

They have risks.

Opioids and butalbital can cause serious withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking them suddenly. People who use high doses for a long time may need to be in the hospital in order to stop using them.

Opioids, even at low doses, can make you feel sleepy or dizzy. Other side effects include constipation and nausea. Using them for a long time can lower your sex drive and cause depression and sleep problems.

Which drugs are good for migraines?

If you have migraine attacks, try one of the drugs listed below. They all work best if you use them when the migraine is just beginning.

  • Start with a non-prescription pain drug like acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), ibuprofen or acetaminophen. If these are not helpful, you can try other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), some of which need a prescription, like diclofenac potassium and naproxen sodium.
  • If these drugs do not help, or your headaches are more severe, try one of the prescription migraine drugs called triptans, such as sumatriptan (Imitrex and generic).
  • If a triptan is helpful but not as effective as you would like, you may combine a triptan with an NSAID (take them simultaneously).
    If the above options are not helpful, you can try dihydroergotamine nasal spray (Migranal). This drug works even better as an injection (Dihydroergotamine AMP and generic). You can do the injections yourself once you are trained.
  • If you have a lot of nausea with your attacks, all of the above medications can be combined with an anti-nausea medication, like metoclopramide.

If you have migraines often, or if they are very severe, ask your doctor about drugs to prevent headaches.

When are opioids or butalbital useful for migraines?

Your doctor may suggest an opioid if none of the treatments listed above help, or if you have bad side effects.

It is not clear if butalbital should be used at all for treating migraines. If your doctor prescribes butalbital for your migraines, ask why. And ask if there are any other drugs that would work instead.

Limit the use of all pain medicines.

  • Do not use prescription pain medicine for headaches for more than nine days in a month.
  • Do not use non-prescription pain medicine like acetaminophen or NSAIDs on more than 14 days in a month.

How to manage migraines:

Some migraines can be managed without drugs. Talk to your doctor about how to:

Avoid triggers. These are things that bring on your headaches. Common food triggers are chocolate, cheese, alcohol, foods with MSG, and meats with nitrates (such as some processed meats). Other common triggers are strong smells, bright light, skipping meals, and smoking.

Reduce stress. Stress can bring on migraines. Try doing activities to help you relax, such as meditation, walking or swimming, yoga, tai chi, or stretching exercises. If you feel anxious or depressed, ask your doctor to help you treat these conditions or refer you to a psychiatrist for treatment.

Get regular sleep and exercise. Too much or too little sleep can lead to migraines. Aim for seven to eight hours a night, with a regular bedtime and wake-up time. Physical activity, such as walking or swimming, can also help prevent obesity, a risk factor for migraines.

Control symptoms. When you get a migraine, lie down in a quiet, dark room if you can. Put a cold cloth or compress over your forehead, massage your scalp, or press on your temples. Drink plenty of water, especially if you have vomited. It is helpful to take medications as early as possible

Keep a headache diary. This can help you figure out what your triggers are and keep track of the medicines you use. Write down:

  • When the pain began.
  • What you were doing before the pain began.
  • What you ate and drank in the 24 hours before the headache.
  • The medicine and dose you used to treat the pain and when you took it.
  • How well your headache attack responded to the medication.

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Best Altitude Sickness Remedies for On-The-Go

If you’ve spent most of your life at sea level, heading to a higher altitude can be a shock to the system. While not everyone who heads to the mountains will experience symptoms of altitude sickness, it is important to understand the signs and know how to combat the negative effects. Gradually letting your body adapt to the new altitude can help keep these symptoms at bay. If you do start feeling a bit under the weather, however, there are a few easy remedies you can keep on hand.

What Is Altitude Sickness?

Altitude sickness is sometimes referred to as acute mountain sickness and can be felt by anyone whose body isn’t used to being at higher altitudes. Although symptoms can strike at any time while at higher altitudes, they are most often felt when you walk or climb too high too quickly. At high elevations, the pressure of the air drops and less oxygen is available. The body needs time to adjust to the change in air pressure before properly acclimating.

Altitude sickness generally starts to affect people above 8,000 feet (2,500 meters). Symptoms often begin to develop between 6 and 24 hours after reaching high altitudes and may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Shortness of breath

It usually takes the body a few days before it begins to adjust to the change in altitude. The best way to avoid experiencing symptoms of altitude sickness is to take things slow. If possible, you should wait two to three days before going above 8,000 feet.

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Once you reach this altitude, you should not climb more than 1,000 to 1,500 feet a day. Be sure to keep yourself properly hydrated and avoid alcoholic drinks and nicotine. Try to avoid participating in any strenuous exercise during the first 24 hours at higher altitudes as well.1 If you still suffer from symptoms of altitude sickness after taking these precautions, there are a handful of ways to ease your discomfort.

Types of Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness is frequently misdiagnosed because the symptoms can closely resemble those of the flu or common cold. If you go skiing and develop a headache, you could be feeling the first symptoms of altitude sickness. If you visit a mountain town and start feeling a bit under the weather, it probably isn’t the beginning of a cold. While most altitude sickness isn’t a cause for alarm, you should keep an eye on your symptoms and consult a doctor if they worsen.

There are three main types of altitude sickness: acute mountain sickness (AMS), high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), and high altitude cerebral edema (HACE). Acute mountain sickness is the most common and has symptoms similar to a hangover or the beginning of a cold. HAPE is the buildup of excess fluid in the lungs, and HACE is fluid in the brain. Both HAPE and HACE are extremely life-threatening. If you experience confusion, shortness of breath while resting, loss of coordination, a cough that produces a frothy substance, or the inability to walk, retreat to a lower elevation and seek medical attention immediately.2

Easy Altitude Sickness Remedies

Minor symptoms of altitude sickness can be remedied on-the-go with a variety of different essential oils. Whether you’re looking to ease nausea, reduce headache pain, breathe easier, or maintain healthy blood circulation, aromatic and topical use of essential oils can go a long way.

Peppermint essential oil is one of the best essential oils to use for headache pain and nausea. One of the easiest ways of using diluted oils on-the-go is to create a roller blend. By pre-diluting your oils in a roller bottle, you can safely apply them topically without worrying about any skin sensitivity.

When you feel a headache coming on, try gently rolling diluted peppermint essential oil onto your temples. If you begin to feel nauseous, roll a bit of the oil onto your lower abdomen and gently massage it in. You can also carry a bottle of pure peppermint essential oil and gently sniff it whenever you need extra relief.

Another great option is to breathe peppermint essential oil through a portable diffuser like Mountain. Remember: breathe in through your mouth and out through your nose. MONQ should not be inhaled into the lungs.

Eucalyptus essential oil is another great choice when you feel as though you need extra oxygen. Eucalyptus oil can help open up your bronchial airways and allow you to breathe easier. You can sniff this oil directly from the bottle or mix it with a carrier oil and gently massage onto your chest.

Thyme essential oil can help maintain healthy circulation, which can increase blood flow to areas of the body that require more oxygen. This is especially important when traveling at higher altitudes. To help increase circulation in the body, dilute thyme essential oil in a carrier oil and gently rub onto the soles of your feet.


Although altitude sickness can cause extreme discomfort, the symptoms can be alleviated naturally if caught early. By easing your way into higher altitudes, staying properly hydrated, and keeping a handful of essential oils on hand, you can enjoy the fresh mountain air with no worries.

Photo credits: RosliakOleksandr/.com, BlazejLyjak/.com

Altitude Sickness Prevention: 4 Simple Steps to Master Elevation (with 1 Warning)

Near a sleepy resort town in Sun Valley, Idaho, peaks like Bald Mountain stand over 13,000 feet above sea level. The average territory for tracking big game animals like elk and deer is 9,000 feet and for someone such as myself who lives in Austin, Texas at 450 feet above sea level, that is one massive elevation change.

As I prepare for this trip, one of the things at the top of my mind is altitude sickness prevention. Of all the things I’ll need to be prepared for (between necessary skills, athletic performance, bringing gear etc), the last thing I want to happen is me becoming ill while on the mountain.

This is a common experience for many people who are traveling from one low elevation place to another that is at altitude.

If you are in need of an altitude sickness treatment or altitude sickness remedy, it’s already too late. The name of the game is to focus on altitude sickness prevention.

This article will be a full scientific analysis of all the tools you can use for altitude sickness prevention. We’ll include different herbs for altitude sickness (for the natural-oriented bunch) and some insurance pharmaceuticals that can help you climb Machu Picchu without worry.

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What is Altitude Sickness?

There are multiple types of altitude sickness, but the two major health concerns called high altitude cerebral edema (HACE) and high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) are rare and above 12-14,000 feet above sea level.

Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is typically the symptoms that you would experience when changing elevation. This includes things like nausea, headache, shortness of breath and poor cognitive performance.

This all stems from higher altitudes having less oxygen available, requiring our bodies to work harder simply to function.

Preventing Altitude Sickness: Practices and Preparation

According to the scientific literature, the body adapts to a lack of oxygen within days if it is below 10,000 feet . This is great to avoid altitude sickness, but it still doesn’t help me perform when I need to.

One major objective is to be able to handle lower oxygen environments through practices and habits alone. We’ll cover some nootropics below, but here are a couple examples of practices that can help:

Sprints (Tabata) – Doing some form of sprinting in certain intervals (known as high intensity interval training or HIIT) can be highly efficient for improving a physical marker called VO2 max . In simple terms this is the maximum amount of oxygen a person can utilize.

There are some studies that show at altitude your VO2 max declines by up to 15% even when you acclimate to elevation changes . Because of this drop in performance, getting it as high as possible at sea level can help at elevation. You might not be at your best, but it will prevent many of the lowered performance symptoms.

Ketogenic Diet – A diet high in fat and low in carbs (often called a ketogenic diet) can change the way our body and brain metabolize oxygen. According to some studies, our body gets an average of 5% more effective at utilizing oxygen using a high fat diet, which impacts athletic performance (and our ability to breathe!) .

A full-scale ketogenic diet is not necessary for altitude, but one that is higher in fat and lower in carbs is probably going to be the best bet going into that situation.

Nootropic Altitude Sickness Prevention

The human body (especially a finely tuned one) is highly adaptable to new landscapes and conditions. Lacking oxygen is no different. To some degree, it is a matter of our body simply having the time to acclimate to these changes.

The practices for altitude sickness prevention listed above are great, but in the moment you are struggling for air, it’s nice to have some supplement options that can ease the transition. None of these nootropics for altitude sickness are going to be the magic bullet, but they can all help the body to adapt.

Altitude Sickness Prevention With… Cannabis?

There are few plants that are the subject of as much attention as cannabis. This is partly due to the controversial nature of the psychoactive ingredient THC, but also because of the wide array of benefits from things like CBD oil (cannabidiol).

There are many benefits of this unique cannabinoid, but an interesting 2013 study in Neuropharmacology concluded that CBD could have a neuroprotective effect during periods of oxygen depletion . The study focused on hypoxic-ischema (brain injury resulting from lack of oxygen) and found that CBD administered to the animals “prevented all these symptoms…CBD exerts robust neuroprotective effects”

Will CBD be powerful enough to prevent altitude sickness? Probably not. But it is a novel and relatively low-risk tool that can be added to our tool belt for protecting our brain.

Altitude Sickness Prevention Stack

A great way to utilize nootropics is by stacking them together in order. Often referred to as a “nootropic stack”, these are used for improving memory formation, learning ability, and a host of others. Companies even provide blended products like Qualia, Mind Lab Pro, or Alpha Brain.

For something that will help adaptation at high altitudes, some different formulas are necessary.

Rhodiola rosea

The first nootropic that comes to mind is called rhodiola rosea, which is an adaptogen that helps the body to… adapt! Specifically, it adapts to stress using a variety of mechanisms . This herb is one of the few that is used by traditional people in China, Russia, and even Viking lore from Scandinavia in order to adapt to higher elevation and harsh conditions.

Known as an anti-fatigue agent, it is one of the top herbs for altitude sickness, which has been used for the better part of the past few thousand years.


A 2011 study in Nutrients looked at L-carnitine (an amino acid found in many meats) and found that it improves energy metabolism and cognitive functioning . Being able to produce more energy and function effectively is of paramount importance when energy resources (oxygen) are scarce. From this study alone, there is clear evidence ALCAR can be a powerful altitude sickness treatment or prevention mechanism.


Another amino acid found in green tea, theanine is popular among most nootropics enthusiasts as a symbiotic tool with caffeine. What makes theanine valuable beyond its cognitive effects are neurotransmitter advantages that are helpful while at altitude. There is clear evidence that serotonin levels drop the higher in elevation you go . Some consider this a major reason for depression among populations at altitude.

Theanine has an effect of normalizing serotonin , but without overdoing it in something like St John’s wort or 5-HTP.

Coenzyme Q10

This co-enzyme is valuable for producing more cellular ATP (energy) in the mitochondria. Any time our mitochondria are healthy and producing more energy, the better off we are going to be. While this could technically be a staple in your supplement cabinet, while changing altitudes it will be even more beneficial.

Essential Oils for Altitude Sickness

Certain essential oils can help with altitude sickness including things in the pine family that reduce stress and (perhaps) work in other ways. For the most part, essential oils are not going to have the same effect as a supplement or other pharmaceutical drugs, but what you will need depends on the change in altitude and personal health.

Altitude Sickness Prevention: Going Nuclear

Hiking through Sun Valley, Idaho is as majestic as it is challenging. At that altitude my body will probably acclimate pretty quickly with a healthful diet and some of the nootropics I have mentioned above.

Changing to a much different altitude can be a different story. For people looking to go nuclear and ensure they prevent altitude issues, Diamox (acetazolamide) is a prescription drug that can help. It is not something we recommend, but Dr. Daniel Stickler at Apeiron Center for Human Potential briefly mentioned it to me on a recent walk together .

My philosophy is always to try and limit prescription drugs to a minimum, but if is a major objective and you have had a history of altitude sickness before, you should have the freedom to utilize whatever tools are necessary. All of these tools can be valuable to some extent, but use them with care and mindfulness.

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How to Identify and Treat Altitude Sickness

You don’t have to be climbing the south face of Annapurna to encounter altitude sickness. Anyone who is hiking, trekking or simply hanging out at several thousand feet above sea level can be stricken.

Altitude illnesses come in three variations, the last two of which can turn fatal:

  • Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is the mildest, most common version.
  • High-Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) is when the brain begins to swell.
  • High-Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) is when the lungs begin to fill with fluid.

For a deep dive into these topics, consult a medical professional or take a course taught by a certified instructor. This article offers a general overview of altitude illnesses:

  • Causes
  • Symptoms and treatments
  • Prevention

Causes of Altitude Sickness

When you feel symptoms of altitude sickness, your body is reacting to getting less oxygen out of the “thinner” air that exists at higher altitudes than your body is used to. So why is the air thinner?

Air pressure and oxygen levels: Air pressure depends on the weight of air above you, which is why higher altitudes have lower air pressures. This lower pressure means that the number of all molecules making up each lungful of air, including oxygen molecules, is reduced.

Acclimatization and the role of your hometown: Often 8,000 feet is cited as the elevation where the reduction in oxygen intake can cause symptoms. Equally important is the altitude where you live, because your body has adapted to the level of oxygen available there.

So at that 8,000-foot elevation, a resident of a sea-level town like Miami will likely be afflicted more severely than someone who lives in the Mile High City, Denver. In addition, sea-level dwellers may experience symptoms at lower elevations.

Symptoms and Treatments of Altitude Sickness

Though symptoms and their progression vary, a single response—taking the person to a lower altitude—is the most effective treatment for all of these conditions. And the one response that’s guaranteed to make things worse is “toughing it out” by continuing your ascent.

Symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness

Whether steady or throbbing, a headache is a telltale sign that you have AMS. Sufferers will also have one or more of these hangover-like symptoms:

  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping

Treatment: The good news is that the body can cure this by itself. You have to give it sufficient time, though, to adapt to a higher altitude. Descend to the last elevation you slept at without feeling symptoms. Then rest until you feel better.

Symptoms of High-Altitude Cerebral Edema

HACE initially presents as a moderate to severe form of AMS. Clues that brain swelling has begun are confusion and impaired balance. Look for these signs:

  • Cannot walk a straight line, heel to toe
  • Cannot balance on one foot

Treatment: A person diagnosed with HACE needs to immediately be escorted to a lower altitude. Full resolution of symptoms simply from descending is unlikely, so you should be thinking about how to contact medical help as soon as HACE is suspected.

Symptoms of High-Altitude Pulmonary Edema

HAPE may or may not be preceded by AMS or HACE. Its initial symptoms are shortness of breath accompanied by a dry cough. Signs that the lungs are continuing to fill with fluid include:

  • Shortness of breath becomes worse
  • Unexpected fatigue and inability to exert oneself
  • A wet, gurgly cough develops

Treatment: To prevent added stress on the lungs, a HAPE sufferer should be carried to a lower elevation immediately. Left untreated, HAPE can cause someone to collapse and die. Call a medical professional if symptoms persist.

Medications for Altitude Sickness

Over-the-counter remedies—ibuprofen, acetaminophen and aspirin—all help relieve the headache associated with AMS and HACE. It’s not uncommon for the headache to persist, though, after these medications are taken. In addition, the headache will usually resolve itself after you’ve descended and/or given your body time to adapt to the higher altitude.

Advanced Treatments for Altitude Sickness

Drugs like Diamox (Acetazolamide) and treatments like pure oxygen are beyond the scope of this article. To learn more about the realm of things a certified medical practitioner must oversee, consult with your doctor.

Altitude sickness


If the symptoms of altitude sickness are ignored, they can lead to life-threatening conditions affecting the brain or lungs.

High altitude cerebral oedema (HACE)

High altitude cerebral oedema (HACE) is the swelling of the brain caused by a lack of oxygen.

Symptoms of HACE:

  • headache
  • weakness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • loss of co-ordination
  • feeling confused
  • hallucinations

A person with HACE often doesn’t realise they’re ill, and may insist they’re all right and want to be left alone.

HACE can develop quickly over a few hours. It can be fatal if it’s not treated immediately.

Treating HACE:

  • move down to a lower altitude immediately
  • take dexamethasone
  • give bottled oxygen, if available

Dexamethasone is a steroid medication that reduces swelling of the brain.

If you can’t go down immediately, dexamethasone can help relieve symptoms until it’s safe to do so.

You should go to hospital as soon as possible for follow-up treatment.

High altitude pulmonary oedema (HAPE)

High altitude pulmonary oedema (HAPE) is a build-up of fluid in the lungs.

Symptoms of HAPE:

  • blue tinge to the skin (cyanosis)
  • breathing difficulties, even when resting
  • tightness in the chest
  • a persistent cough, bringing up pink or white frothy liquid (sputum)
  • tiredness and weakness

The symptoms of HAPE can start to appear a few days after arrival at high altitude. It can be fatal if it’s not treated immediately.

Treating HAPE:

  • move down to a lower altitude immediately
  • take nifedipine
  • give bottled oxygen, if available

The medication nifedipine helps to reduce chest tightness and ease breathing.

You should go to hospital as soon as possible for follow-up treatment.

If you’ve had HAPE, you can register with the International HAPE Database to help develop new treatments for the condition.

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