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altitude sickness

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I am 100% northwest boy and feel like crap as soon as I hit 9,000 feet. Sometimes I pop Advil lower down to dull the pain - but I can't figure out how to deal with the nausea.

 

My only solution is to keep moving.

 

anyone have some good drugs????

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i would pick up the small little "booklet" publication that the american alpine club puts out...i think it is called "altitude sickness" by dr hackett? that has some good info...some folks hit a "wall" at about 10k and cant handle altitude at all (rare, but possible)...my suggestion is to keep experimenting...there is no magic cure all for you body producing more red blood cells (which is what you need to process more oxygen at lower pressures (ie altitude)

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I've got some tings to share, but I should preface them by sayibng these are just bits I've picked up here and there. I'm far from an expert.

 

1. The statement "walk down hill" is not just being conservative. I've been told by a climber/doctor in Bellinham that the only cure (remedy the problem) for altitude sickness is descent/hyperbaric chamber. Obviously in the cascades you can ususally push throught the symptoms long enough to summit, THEN descend and feel better, but for higher stuff, once the real symptoms kick in, they probably won't go away w/o descent (again, MINOR symptoms might take care of themselves)

 

 

2. Medicines are useful for temporary relief from symptoms, but don't do much as a cure. In the cascades and CO, I've used ibu and tums w/ reasonable sucsess, but maybe I've just been dealing w/ upset stomache from a double order of eggs and bacon followed by high excertion, not as much alt. sickness. A friend reported reasonable sucsess with coca leaves in Ecuador, and I've heard (as metioned above) of others using cocaine w/ sucsess. I've been told (b'ham doc) that diamox is useful as a temporary rellief unitl your able to decesnd, but shoundn't be used to extend your range. Finally, as an aid to maintaining hydration/"clean" blood, a himilayan tour guide told me green and black tea in large quantities does good at simultainiously hydrating/ flushing toxins.

 

3. Prevention is major issue. I'm sure you know this but it seems worth emphasizing that rest before and during a climb combined with full hydration and good nutrition are more important than any drugs you can bring with you. I say this because I've found myself leaving for trips right after school, snacking on doritos and pepsi on the way, approaching into the night, then getting hammered the next morning. If I'd been able to/thought to get rest before, eat a solid meal, and drink plenty of water, I'd have been in much better shape.

 

So I don't mean to come off as an expert by any means. This is just a collection of info I have/ a spring board for further discussion.

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...some folks hit a "wall" at about 10k and cant handle altitude at all

 

I'm not sure if it was in the book mentioned here or somewhere else, but there was mention of a person flying from LAX to Tahoe (around 6K?) for some golfing and getting hit hard enough to require medical treatment. ooo.gif Golfers. Wooses.

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Any one know a cure, drugs, or a remedy for altitude sickness?

 

Sure. It's called acclimatization. You can even get it without a prescription. I commend your attention to page 456 of Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills, 7th edition, available at fine gear shops and bookstores everywhere.

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Really focus on your breathing. I can't stress enough how effective pressure breathing can be on getting rid of symptoms. I got tunnel vision once and just stopped and pressure breathed for about 5 minutes and got rid of it. Same for nausea,ect

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I'm not sure if it was in the book mentioned here or somewhere else, but there was mention of a person flying from LAX to Tahoe (around 6K?) for some golfing and getting hit hard enough to require medical treatment. ooo.gif Golfers. Wooses.

 

What pressure inside the plane is equivalent to pressure in terms of elevation? I wouldn't think going from sea level to 6k would be that bad cause the plane's pressure is gonna be less than at sea level by a decent amount in the first place.

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At the risk of asking a dumb question... what's "pressure" breathing?

pursing your lips as you exhale forcefully. like you are passing a stone.

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I talked to an M.D. doing high altitude medical research on Denali a couple years ago. I asked him about pressure breathing, since there is kind of a debate. He told me that there is infact documented evidence that pressure breathing can increase performance at altitude and that it can have mitigating effects on AMS. He stressed a few important details though. First of all, the most important thing is that you breath in full breaths in order to maximize oxygen exchange. I've seen a lot of people "pressure breathing" on summit day, and all they're doing is making themselves dizzier by breathing in rapid, forcfull, but shallow breaths, thereby inducing acidosis. As it was explained to me, the full benifit of pressure breathing comes into play when you take a full lungful of air, purse your lips, and exhale steadily (as lummox already explained). When you do this, you create a simulated "back pressure" in your lungs. In other words, the air pressure in your lungs is higher (closer to sea level pressure) than the air you are actually breathing.

 

The downside of pressure breathing is that it can theoretically lead to decreased acclimitazation when used to get up to a higher camp. If you are pressure breathing, you are in effect postponing symptoms. Its great for a summit day, when you will be turning around and going back down in a couple of hours anyway. But if you are approaching a high camp, you will soon be resting and breathing at a lower rate anyway. This can be problematic if you haven't fully acclimatized.

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Pressure inside the plane varies with the type of plane and how old it is. I used to think that the pressurization was controlled precisely, but a Boeing engineer once told me that they simply pump air into the cabin and it slowly leaks out through all the rivet holes. The pump has only one setting, so the older (leakier) planes have a higher effective altitude. I think it varies from about 5000 to 8000 in terms of equivalent pressure.

Some of the newer planes are built tight enough to recirculate their air. These are probably more highly pressurized.

Any Boeing employees want to weigh in?

 

Also: hyperventilation leads to alkalosis, not acidosis. Everyone at altitude tends to hyperventilate to get enough oxygen, which reduces circulating CO2, causing alkalosis. Diamox corrects this imbalance to some degree.

Edited by Norman_Clyde

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To expand on lummox's pressure breathing, not only pursing your lips but forcing the air out and pushing through your abdomen. It souns loud, but it does work. Make the breaths deeper and longer as well. Prior to going to altitude for an extended period of time, it can also help to take Iron supplements to "strengthen" the blood. Just do not take it and maybe a week before heading out on an expedition.

 

As for coca, I drank the tea down on Cotapaxi, but I don't know if it helped or not as I had already climbed El Cayambe (18,000') and Gua Gua Pinchincha (15,500') over the previous few days.

 

All in all, acclimation is key for higher mountains, descent is mandatory if acute mountain sickness persists for more than a few days.

 

In the cascades where summits are attained in 24 hrs or less, hydration is key before and during your climb, moving at a steady but slower pace, pressure breathing, eating regularly (caloric intake like Gu every hour or so), and not pushing yourself. If you feel bad, rest, rehydrate, pressure breathe, and eat. If you continue to feel bad, descend.

 

Altitude affects people differently each time they go out. My buddy who had been up to Everest base camp a week and a half prior to meeting up with me on Aconcagua acquired Pulmonary Edema at 14k. We went from Mendoza to the highway drop off at 9k the first day. Then hiked to a camp at 12k. Took a rest day at 12k, with a day hike up to look at the S. Face, and then headed to Basecamp the following day. By the time we hit BC, he had hit a wall, and by that evening we took him to the Gammo Bag where he remained all night with fluid in his lungs. Why did he get it and no one else in our party? I had been to almost 21,000 in Ecuador and Peru the previous few weeks and my other buddy lived in Telluride at 9k for the last 6 months. We all carried minimla weight as the mules had most of it. The only difference was that when he hiked, he hiked fast and then would rest while we caught up. We moved slow and steady and were fine.

 

He later went and sumitted some peaks in the Cordillera Blanca a month later and had no problems.

 

Another thing on longer expedition-style climbs. If you reach your next camp and are feeling bad, you may need to rest for a little while, but do not become lethargic. Sitting around hoping you will acclimate is probably the worst thing you can do. Take a walk around camp, offer to make water, set up a tent, build an igloo. In otehr words stay active at that altitude. You will acclimate fast and more likely won't have to descend as you will begin to feel better.

 

In the Cascades, you typically get can up and down without incident, but for those that do have problems, what I mentioned above has worked for me without any problems.

 

As for Diamox, my belief is that I want my body to acclimate naturally. If you need Diamox to try and acclimate, then you are climbing too fast. What's the rush? You're in some amazing place and you are trying to rush through it so you can go back to your boring daily lives pretending to work and typing on cc.com all day?

 

If you are having trouble on Hood, Rainier, Shasta, etc. Insterad of doing a one day climb, make it a two day and bivy at 9-10k. I bet you'll see a difference.

 

My final comment, and then I'll shut up, is watch your weight. Do you really need a whole pound of cheese and three bagels to run up the S. Side of Hood? What about extra jackets? As you spend more days on the glaciers and in the mountains you will learn what you do and don't need. Keep track of everything you use and if there is something you keep bringing and never use, my bet is that you can leave it behind. More weight defiantely has a direct correlation to how one acclimates.

 

My two cents.

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...some folks hit a "wall" at about 10k and cant handle altitude at all
Very true. For several years my mother developed (nearly instantaneously!) pulmonary edema if she went even 20 feet above 12,000 feet. Very strange that the altitude at which is always happened was so well defined, and also very strange that the condition developed in a matter of minutes rather than hours.

 

But after a few years when she was in better shape she had no problem climbing the Maroon Bells in Colo (both 14k). thumbs_up.gif So personal differences can be huge, and personal tolerances can change over time.

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What pressure inside the plane is equivalent to pressure in terms of elevation? I wouldn't think going from sea level to 6k would be that bad cause the plane's pressure is gonna be less than at sea level by a decent amount in the first place.

 

The cabin of your typical commercial airplane flying high is at an equivalent of somewhere around 8000'.

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I didn't realize it was that high - i figured 5k or so. I wonder if you could get altitude sickness on a flight then - that would definitely suck.

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I have flown a bit lately and I check my altimeter watch in flight and on the planes I've been on it has been around 5600' on the watch, and it stays pretty steady, and it seems to lower in stages as the plane decends.

TTT

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I didn't realize it was that high - i figured 5k or so. I wonder if you could get altitude sickness on a flight then - that would definitely suck.

 

The equivalent altitude will spend a lot of time in the 5 - 6K' range, but 8K' is the upper end, at least according to my aero coworkers.

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