Altitude sickness is simply not getting enough oxygen from the air at high altitudes. Altitude sickness has several symptoms such as headache, trouble sleeping and loss of appetite. It happens most often when people who are not used to high altitudes go quickly from lower altitudes to 8000 ft (2438 m) or higher. For example, you may get a headache when you drive over a high mountain pass, hike to a high altitude, or arrive at a mountain resort. I live at just over 6,000 ft altitude and I have experienced mild altitude sickness and have seen people get mild cases of altitude sickness.
Mild altitude sickness is common. Experts do not know who is more susceptible to altitude sickness. Neither your fitness level nor being male or female plays a role in whether you get altitude sickness.
Altitude sickness can be dangerous. It is smart to take special care if you go high-altitude hiking or camping (like in the Rockies) or have plans for a vacation or trek in high-altitude countries like Peru, Ecuador, or Nepal.
Another name for altitude sickness is acute mountain sickness.
Symptoms of altitude sickness include:
• Headache; usually throbbing and gets worse during the night and when you wake up
• Weakness and fatigue. Severe cases are indicated by patient not having the energy to dress themselves, eat or do anything
• Not wanting to eat due to feeling sick to the stomach and may result in vomiting
• Waking up during the night and not sleeping well
• Feeling dizzy
The symptoms may not start immediately upon arrival at high altitude; they could start the next day.
Severe cases are evident when the patient breaths and it sounds like a paper bag being crumpled and the lips or fingernails’ may appear blue or gray. The patient will show signs of confusion, not being able to walk straight and feeling faint.
1. This may be deadly and the patient should be taken to lower altitude immediately (1,000-2,000 feet change may be lifesaving). Do not allow a solo descent by the patient.
2. Oxygen at L/minute or more by oxygen mask. If patient is comatose, insert an endotracheal tube.
3. Evacuate patient to advanced medical care.