oa SA Pharmaceutical Journal - Altitude sickness prevention and treatment : review

Volume 82, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 2221-5875
  • E-ISSN: 2220-1017



Gradual ascent is the most reliable and safest method of preventing or ameliorating high altitude illness (HAI). Allowing enough time for the human body to adjust to moderate hypoxia, a process called acclimatisation, prevents altitude illness, improves sleep, and increases comfort and well-being. An increase in ventilation is the most important factor in acute acclimatisation. Vigorous exertion at high altitudes, the use of alcohol and sedative hypnotics should be avoided during acclimatisation. In general, prophylactic medications should be reserved for high- to moderate-risk situations. Early recognition of the symptoms and treatment is critical, particularly with regard to high altitude pulmonary oedema and high altitude cerebral oedema. Anyone with HAI symptoms should not continue to ascend, and descent is mandatory if the symptoms do not improve.

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