Sie sind auf Seite 1von 25

TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE ii iii TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE

ABOUT THIS BOOK CONTENTS


1 Preface 22 The Joints / Muscles
2 Finding out about High 23 The Extremities
Altitude 24 The Eyes
3 What is High Altitude? 25 The Mouth / Teeth
4 Where in the World is High? 26 The Ears / Nose
5 Europe 27 The Reproductive Bits
6 North & South America 28 Sleep
7 Africa 29 Children at Altitude
8 Asia 30 Porters
9 Australasia 31 What to do in an
10 Antarctica Emergency
11 Acclimatisation 32 Incident Record Card
This book has been written by Research into high altitude 12 The Effects of Altitude 33 Pills & Potions
people who like being in the illness is not easy to do, not 13 Acute Mountain Sickness 35 Oxygen
mountains, who have a particular comprehensive and far from 15 The Brain 36 Pre-existing Conditions
interest in medicine and what can complete. 16 HACE 39 Healthy Environment
happen to people at high altitude. Anyone travelling to high areas is 17 The Lungs 40 Recommended Reading
Its contents should be treated as a advised to seek medical advice 18 HAPE 41 Useful Websites
guideline only, based on current before going and also, where 19 The Heart / Blood 42 Credits
knowledge. possible, if they become ill at 20 The Stomach / Bowels 43 Daily AMS Score Card
altitude. 21 The Kidney / Bladder 44 Personal Details
First published: 2007 This edition: 2008
The authors and the publisher have made every effort to ensure that information is accurate
and as up-to-date as possible. However, they are unable to accept responsibility for any loss,
injury or inconvenience sustained by any person, caused by errors or omissions or as a result
of the advice and information given in this book.
All rights reserved. We encourage non-commercial use of this material as long as
acknowledgement is made to the copyright holder. © Medex 2007, 2008
ISBN 0-901100-76-5

This book may be downloaded free from the website; www.medex.org.uk


TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE 1 2 TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE

PREFACE FINDING OUT ABOUT HIGH ALTITUDE


In 1991 some doctors interested that travelling at altitude can have This booklet has been put interest in adventure and in
in mountain medicine saw a young, on your body and aims to help you together by two linked adventure medicine. Medex has run
fit climber die on the Mera La. The to understand why you may not feel organisations with an interest in successful expeditions to Everest in
doctor with him knew little about the well or get ill. It suggests ways to high altitude travel and high altitude 1994, Kangchenjunga in 1998 and
risks of severe altitude mountain avoid illness and suggests what medicine. Hongu in 2003.
sickness. you should do if you get an altitude To find out more about what we
The tragedy inspired the doctors related illness. Our own Medical Expeditions’ aims are: do, or to join us, please take a look
to study altitude illness and share experiences and real cases have • To investigate all aspects of at our website.
this information with others. The been used as examples. altitude related Illness.
organisation ‘Medical Expeditions’ The deaths on the Mera La were • To educate mountaineers and
was born with this as its mission. caused by going to high altitude, trekkers and their doctors
Ten years later, again high on but both could have been avoided about the nature and
the Mera La, Medical Expeditions’ had simple rules been followed. avoidance of altitude related
members saw an elderly Japanese Medical Expeditions is teaching illness.
lady slip into a coma and die, doctors about high altitude illness Established in 1992, it has
having been left behind by her and wants others to learn about it acquired an internationally
friends. Another life was lost. too. respected reputation for its
Despite all the research and This research and educational work.
education there is still much that book is Medical Expeditions specialises
needs to be done to save such our best in researching on relatively large
lives. attempt sample groups over a long period
Since the early 1990s members at of time. A typical expedition is
of Medical Expeditions have, along helping comprised of 75 members exposed
with others, been busy studying everyone to altitude for 6 weeks.
mountain medicine. to stay
They have done their best to healthy Medex is a club which organises
improve the knowledge of doctors travelling adventurous expeditions worldwide
responsible for, or advising, people at and supports the work of Medical
travelling at altitude. altitude. Expeditions. It provides a link
This book looks at the effects between those who have an
TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE 3 4 TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE

WHAT IS HIGH ALTITUDE? WHERE IN THE WORLD IS HIGH?


Good question! In will be less oxygen for your body.
this book, we are Oxygen is needed to give you the
talking about energy to move, but is also needed
going from close simply to keep your body alive - for
to sea level to your brain and digestion to work, for
anywhere above healing cuts, and all those normal
2,000m. things your body does without you
Our bodies are knowing about it.
used to working at As your body gets less oxygen it
home. When we adapts. You breathe faster and
go higher they need to adapt. deeper. It makes more red cells to
Altitude starts to have an effect carry more oxygen in the blood.
around 1,500 - 2,000m. The body Changes take time to happen. If
starts to behave slightly differently you go 9,000m
Everest
as it tries to make up for the change slowly you Death 8,850m
There are many places in the
in oxygen levels. Go up too fast to should stay 8,000m zone
world where you can go to high
about 2,500m and altitude illnesses healthy. Go
are common. up too fast 7,000m Extreme altitude.
You can choose to, by going
Given enough time to adapt, and you altitude Kilimanjaro
most people can adjust to altitudes risk 6,000m on a trekking or climbing holiday.
5,985m
It may come as more of a
between 5,000m (Everest base suffering Very
5,000m surprise when using high ski
camp) and 5,500m. Above 5,500m from high Inca Trail
altitude 4,198m runs, driving or cycling over high
few people can adjust any more. altitude 4,000m passes or even flying into towns
Health and ability then get worse. related
and cities which are high.
So what’s different about travel illnesses, 3,000m
High Each high altitude area has its
at altitude? The main difference is such as altitude
2,000m own problems. Before travelling
that as you go higher the air Acute Ben Nevis
you should find out more about
pressure gets lower (the air gets Mountain 1,344m
1,000m where you are going.
‘thinner’), and this means for any Sickness Sea
single breath that you take there (AMS). Level
0m
TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE 5 6 TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE

EUROPE NORTH & SOUTH AMERICA


Ask someone to name the high Climbing trips in the Alps or in Skiing and
mountain ranges of the world and parts of Eastern Europe can also climbing in the
they will most likely name the put you at risk of altitude related Rockies may
Himalayas and the Andes. Most illness - especially when sleeping in put you at risk,
people don’t know that the the mountain huts. and some
mountains of Europe are high people will be
enough to cause people to affected in the
suffer from high altitude towns and
illnesses. In fact many holiday cities. For
makers and novice climbers in example the
the Alps will often know little or town of
nothing about high altitude Leadville,
illness. High altitude Colorado is
headaches on tourist trips are above 3,000m.
possible, and some people will The major mountains of North should rest for the first few hours
suffer from other problems too. America are in the northern then take things easy for a few
In the Alps it is easy for latitudes, where air pressure is days before trying one of the high
people to get to high altitude lower for the same altitude than at treks such as the Inca trail.
really quickly and easily using the equator. FIFA have banned international
cable cars, mountain railways In the Andes it is possible to fly football matches in La Paz in
and ski lifts. Many of the or even drive into places such as Bolivia since the home team have a
mountain passes have high Cusco (3,326m), or La Paz major advantage due to their
points that are over 2,000m. (3,600m) without any natural acclimatisation to the lack of
acclimatisation en route. You oxygen.
A family of four took the mountain railway from Grindelwald (1,034m) to the
Jungfraujoch, walked up to the hut at 3,650m and had a picnic. After about 4 A businessman hoping to clinch a multimillion dollar contract flew to La Paz
hours at altitude, the 11 year old complained bitterly of a headache. The family (3,600m) in Bolivia the day before an important meeting. His company had
descended on foot and then by train. The boy was sick on the descent. On decided to save on the expense of sending him a few days early to enable him to
reaching the valley he swiftly recovered. His symptoms were caused by Acute acclimatise. He felt so ill when making his presentation that he lost the contract.
Mountain Sickness (AMS) which the family had never heard of. The next time he will make sure he gets the chance to acclimatise.
TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE 7 8 TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE

AFRICA ASIA
The major problems occur on help acclimatise before tackling the The most popular areas for high Hotel Everest View (3,860m)
Kilimanjaro, where due to the costs main summit. altitude trekking and climbing are in suffered AMS.
being based on the number of days Some companies are starting to this part of the world. A gradual ascent to the Tibetan
you are on the mountain, many offer itineraries which take account From Nepal, Pakistan or India it plateau is impossible, so AMS
organised groups ascend far faster of this. It is worth spending a bit is usually possible to make a symptoms must be carefully
than the recommended 300m per extra to stay safe and achieve your gradual ascent into the mountains - monitored and exercise kept to a
day. It is possible to spend time on goals. Find out from the trekking ideally avoiding the highest landing minimum until acclimatised.
some of the adjacent mountains to company how many people did and strips. 84% of people flying in to the
how many didn’t
reach the top
(or Gilmans
Point) on their
last few trips.
Ask how many
days they were
trekking. A safe
ascent should
take 8 to 10
days.

While cycling from Lhasa to Everest Base Camp, a group had crossed two
An experienced British Mountain guide with training in mountain medicine was 5,000m passes in 8 days. On day 9, at 4,150m, one member of the team woke up
leading a group up Mt Kilimanjaro (5,895m). They came across a very scared feeling dizzy and nauseous, was shivering and unable to walk straight. By midday,
group with a collapsed 17-year-old boy. The guide injected dexamethasone at the with no improvement, the group decided to go down. This was over a 5,150m
same time as commencing a rapid and life saving descent. On arrival at a hut pass. The casualty turned blue, was hardly breathing, ‘rattling’ and frothing at the
shelter he used his satellite phone to contact a UK climbing doctor who advised mouth. Once over the pass, her condition improved. The group stayed at 4,100m
further descent through the night. Two days later the boy was fit and well. Had that night and the local doctor wrongly diagnosed high blood pressure. Luckily
anyone in the group known a little more about altitude illness they may have been they met a climbing doctor with drugs to treat altitude illness. They dropped to
able to avoid the emergency. Sadly they all learned some lessons the hard way. 2,400m by truck the next day and finally on to Kathmandu for medical attention.
TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE 9 10 TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE

AUSTRALASIA ANTARCTICA
New Zealand has many peaks African peaks it is worth trying to
over 3,000m but very few reported ascend more slowly and
incidences of altitude illness acclimatising if possible. The
requiring evacuation, though difficult tracks, lack of reliable
frostbite is common on Mount maps, muddy wet seasons, limited
Cook. medical care and risk of tropical
Australia’s highest point Mount illness can turn what looks like an
Kosciuszko (2,200m) is an easy easy weekend into a nightmare.
walk so is unlikely to cause altitude Borneo - Mt Kinabalu 4,101m
problems but it is still possible. can be climbed rapidly, resulting in
Papua New Guinea / Indonesia a high incidence of AMS.
have a number of
mountains over Antarctica is the coldest, highest, companies are offering climbing
3,000m, the windiest, driest and iciest continent packages. It is worth remembering
highest being on earth with an average altitude of that pressure is lower in the Polar
Puncak Jaya 2,300m. The highest point is Mount Regions. Low pressure weather
(Carstensz Vinson at 4,892m. The ice can systems can also lower the
Pyramid) at reach a depth of 4,700m in places. pressure further. As a result
4.884m. Many Most people visit Antarctica as reduced oxygen levels and AMS
tourists report part of organised expeditions or will develop at lower altitudes than
AMS symptoms work projects and have training in elsewhere.
spoiling their trip altitude conditions and guides. Extreme cold makes altitude
and some However with the continent opening related problems even worse.
trekkers have up to independent travel some
died. As with the
A fit 66-year-old tourist flew from the Patriot Hills camp at 887m to the Pole at
In 1982 two climbers were stormbound for two weeks on the summit of Mount 2,800m. She hurried the 300m to the flags to take photos then needed help to
Cook. When the weather improved, and they were rescued, both had suffered climb the 30 steps into the NSF research base. She was short of breath and had a
frostbite to their feet due to the combination of cold and altitude. Both men had headache. She was treated with oxygen, fluids and simple painkillers. Later that
their feet amputated. They have each returned since then to summit the mountain, day she was able to walk back to the plane and made a full recovery at Patriot
with one of them also summiting Everest. Hills the following day.
TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE 11 12 TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE

ACCLIMATISATION THE EFFECTS OF ALTITUDE


When the body slowly adapts to slowest to Most people going high have to Oedema - HAPE) can happen and
lower oxygen levels the process is acclimatise - deal with altitude related illnesses. these can kill you very quickly.
called acclimatisation. and the Dealt with correctly, they are What people don’t know about is
Different people acclimatise at timetable unlikely to be a major problem. that you’ll need to pee more, your
different speeds, so no rule works should be Dealt with incorrectly they can be balance may become unsteady,
for everyone, but there are good made to disastrous - spoiling the trip for the your eyesight could change and
guidelines. keep them person who is ill and those with your nails will grow differently.
Over 3,000m go up slowly, healthy. A them. We hope the following pages will
sleeping no more than 300m higher rest day Being honest about how you feel tell you about some of the things
at the end of each day. Going scheduled each day can make a difference, you may experience and how best
higher during the day is ok as long after every 2 and knowing what’s happening to to deal with them. Some are mainly
as you go down to sleep (“walk high to 3 days you could save your life. about comfort, but some can lead
- sleep low”). If you go up higher will also help. Some very strange to long term damage to health or
and can’t descend - take a rest day Driving or flying to high altitude things can happen to death. Finding out about what your
to allow your body time to ‘catch means more people will suffer from your body when you body is doing as it goes higher is
up’. AMS. go high! fascinating and can become part of
This may seem very slow, and It is really sensible to find out Most people who have the fun of travel! In fact, when you
some people will comfortably be about the height of your planned been to altitude can think how clever your body is at
able to go up much faster, but in a route before you travel. Better still, tell you about having dealing with such big changes, you
group someone will always be the make a drawing to show the height headaches, being out of breath, may even want to know more!
that you will sleep sleeping badly and not feeling
at each night. If hungry. These are symptoms of
you don’t know - AMS. AMS is uncomfortable,
ask. There’s no not life threatening. If the AMS
better way to spot symptoms become severe and
the days which you keep going higher - fluid in
are likely to cause the brain (High Altitude Cerebral
altitude illness. Oedema - HACE) or fluid in the
lungs (High Altitude Pulmonary
TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE 13 14 TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE

AMS Scorecard Total


ACUTE MOUNTAIN SICKNESS (AMS) None 0
Mild 1
Headache
Moderate 2
The common symptoms for AMS equally important. Severe / incapacitating 3
are: Hiding illness or pushing Good appetite 0
• Headache. someone on could be fatal. Poor appetite, nausea 1
Guts / Stomach
• Nausea (feeling sick). Some people just seem to Moderate nausea or vomiting 2
• Vomiting (being sick). acclimatise slowly, and need to Severe / incapacitating 3
• Fatigue (feeling tired). take things more gently. Not tired or weak 0
• Poor appetite (not hungry). If you are unfit, it doesn’t mean Mild fatigue / weakness 1
Fatigue / Weakness
• Dizziness. you are more likely to suffer, but Moderate 2
Severe / incapacitating 3
• Sleep disturbance. overdoing it might be risky. If you
None 0
A simple scorecard is shown on are unused to exercise, feeling tired Mild 1
the next page, and on Medex while trekking is not surprising. Dizziness / Light-headedness
Moderate 2
expeditions everyone keeps a Similarly if you are sleeping in a Severe / incapacitating 3
check of their scores twice a day. tent every night and are not used to As well as usual 0
It’s good if everyone logs how it, your sleep may be poor. The Not as well as usual 1
Difficulty sleeping
they feel while travelling (copy the food may also be very different. Woke many times, poor night 2
sheet in the back of this booklet) - The most important thing is: are Could not sleep at all 3
and is honest with others in the the symptoms getting better or At altitude:
group. Everyone can help make worse? • If you have a headache and a total
decisions - to go up, to have a rest If you think you are getting worse of 3 or more for the others, do not
day, or to go down. As a group, - walk down (at least 500 to 1,000m go any higher.
everyone’s health and happiness is lower for sleeping). Give your body • If you have a headache, and a total
extra time to acclimatise. Don’t of 3 or more for the others, have got
no better or got worse - go down.
leave this decision until it’s too late.
Diamox The drug acetazolamide (trade name Diamox) can be used to reduce the
Before you go: effects of AMS, useful where big height gains are unavoidable. It also helps
• Learn about the symptoms of AMS. periodic breathing (see page 28). It works by speeding up acclimatisation, but
does not mask the symptoms of AMS. You can still get AMS, HAPE and HACE
• If you plan to use Diamox - learn all while taking it.
about the side effects and try one at Some people are allergic to Diamox. There are side effects, e.g. tingling,
home to find out how you feel. especially of hands, feet and face. Some people find this unpleasant, but it is not
• Check you are not allergic to harmful and will go away when you stop taking the drug. It also makes you pee
Diamox (a sulphonamide). even more.
TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE 15 16 TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE

THE BRAIN HACE


The brain is affected by altitude Mood changes - on a ‘trip of a The main signs: Can they:
because it needs a good supply of lifetime’ there will be good days and • Severe headache. • Touch nose with index finger with
oxygen and may swell causing bad days. Bad days can trigger • Become clumsy. eyes closed? Repeat rapidly.
pressure. disappointment and depression. Be • Act differently - unhelpful, violent, • Walk heel to toe in a straight line?
High Altitude Cerebral Oedema prepared for mood swings! lazy. • Stand upright, with eyes shut and
• May have bad, non-stop vomiting. arms folded?
(HACE) is AMS / HACE - see other pages. • Do simple mental maths?
caused by Stroke - developing sight or • Blurred vision.
• See, hear, feel, smell odd things. If not able to do or have difficulty doing
brain swelling speech problems and / or a weak any of the above, suspect HACE.
and can kill arm, leg or face are signs of a • Confused. HACE can develop very quickly with
very quickly if stroke. (Some migraine sufferers • Reduced consciousness. no other problems or can follow AMS
not treated. have similar effects during an and HAPE.
Some people ‘aura’).
What to do:
feel no effects. Before you go:
Others may
• Stay with the person at all times - do not leave them on their own.
• Learn the signs of HACE & stroke. • Descend now - not later or in the morning.
suffer any (or all) of the following: • Prepare medical supplies.
Headaches - very common at
• Sit them upright and keep warm.
• Consider expectations / fears and • Give oxygen via cylinder or pressure bag if you have it.
altitude, especially if you suffer who will support you on bad days.
headaches or migraine at home. • Give dexamethasone if you have it.
At altitude: • Give acetazolomide if you have it.
Loss of balance - co-ordination
and balance may be affected. Older
• Headache (AMS) avoid triggers - • If really unable to descend - prolonged use of a pressure bag may be needed.
dehydration, exhaustion, alcohol -
people and those who are treat with painkillers. Consequence if ignored:
acclimatised feel less effect. • Stroke - treat with ½ a 300mg Loss of consciousness - confusion, drowsiness.
‘Clumsiness’ and bad judgements aspirin & descend. See a doctor.
• Be honest about how you feel. Reduced breathing.
increase the risk of accidents. DEATH.
I set off at the back, with a sore head, coughing. My cough and head got worse. A In serious cases death can occur within as little as an hour of symptoms
‘drag’ feeling began in my mouth. When I met the others, I plucked up the courage being noticed.
to ask if ‘my speech was slurred’. The shock hit me. I had heard myself mumble
incoherently. They looked horrified, my words just dribbled out, I couldn’t use my Remember it is possible to have AMS, HACE and HAPE at the same time.
left arm, no power, my left hand tingled, the left of my face was paralysed and my
head sore. I was done for!!! Expert medical care and rapid descent saved my life. DESCEND DESCEND DESCEND DESCEND
TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE 17 18 TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE

THE LUNGS HAPE


Because the air is thinner at high Fluid may collect in the lungs The main signs: What to check for:
altitude there is less oxygen causing a problem known as ‘High • Trouble breathing. • Has there been recent ascent?
available so breathing gets deeper Altitude Pulmonary • Tired & weary. • Does it take a long time to get
and quicker to compensate. This Oedema’ (HAPE). Symptoms • Coughing. breath back after exercise?
‘acclimatisation’ helps you cope include severe breathlessness at • Froth and later blood in spit. • Are they breathless when resting?
with the altitude better. Being more rest and frothy bloodstained spit • Lips, tongue, nails become blue. • Is the breathing rate increasing?
short of breath for the same may be coughed up. People who HAPE can develop in 1-2 hours or • Can ‘wet’ / crackling sound be
over several days and even when heard in chest? Put ear to back
exercise as at sea level is normal. have had HAPE are likely to get it below shoulder blades.
descending.
Other changes occur in the again, often at the same altitude.
blood, which you will be less aware This is a serious (potentially life-
of, allowing the blood to carry more threatening) condition and should What to do:
oxygen to where it is needed. not be ignored. • Stay with the person at all times - do not leave them on their own.
People often • Descend now - not later or in the morning.
develop a dry Before you go:
• Exercise regularly, preferably the • Sit upright and keep warm.
cough at altitude. • Give oxygen via cylinder or pressure bag if you have it.
It is not entirely type planned at altitude; don’t be
short of breath due to unfitness! • Give nifedipine if you have it.
clear why this • Give acetazolomide if you have it.
happens, but At altitude:
• If really unable to descend - prolonged use of a pressure bag may be needed.
whilst irritating, it • Walk slowly.
is not usually • Take plenty of rests.
serious. • It’s not a competition! Some people Consequence if ignored:
Occasionally adapt better than others. Breathing stops.
more serious • Do not ignore signs of HAPE. Seek DEATH.
medical help if possible and if in
problems can occur with breathing. doubt DESCEND! In serious cases death can occur within as little as an hour of symptoms
being noticed.
An experienced trekker on a medical research expedition arrived at 5,200m to find
her blood oxygen had dropped below what would normally keep her alive. Her
lungs were filling with water, she became dizzy and had difficulty breathing at
night. Descent was impossible without crossing a high pass. She was given Remember it is possible to have AMS, HACE and HAPE at the same time.
acetazolamide tablets 500mg followed by 250mg three times a day. After 24 hours
and a lot of peeing, her blood oxygen had risen to the normal level. DESCEND DESCEND DESCEND DESCEND
TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE 19 20 TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE

THE HEART / BLOOD THE STOMACH / BOWELS


Travelling to altitude can have to the blood thickening, making the You may lose your appetite at If you have indigestion or piles at
several effects on your heart. The circulation sluggish. With this in altitude and AMS may make you home, see your doctor well before
lower oxygen in the air and mind, you should make sure you feel sick. Changing food may affect travelling. Piles can be a misery at
exercise you are doing can make drink plenty. If you have a known appetite or cause the runs. altitude. With indigestion, avoid
your heart beat faster. This is not heart problem (such as an irregular Many altitude trips are in areas indigestion causing painkillers.
normally a problem but if you have heart beat, high blood pressure, a where water and sanitation are
a heart condition (eg angina) it can heart attack or angina) or have had poor, so the risk of the runs is
put extra strain on your heart. Your surgery on your heart you should higher. Prevention is better than
blood pressure may go up a small talk to your doctor to make sure cure. Bottled water and water filters
amount at altitude, but this effect is that what you are planning is not can be unreliable. Iodine is the
not normally going to put undue strain on your best, unless you have thyroid
noticed. heart. If you take medicines, make disease or are pregnant.
One of the sure you take plenty with you. If you do get the runs keep
effects of altitude If you are healthy then travel to hydrated by drinking plenty of
is for you to altitude will not put any more strain purified water or rehydration
produce more on your heart than rigorous solution. Traveller’s diarrhoea is
red blood cells exercise at sea level. likely to be caused by bacteria so
(so you can carry People with inherited sickle cell antibiotics may be needed. Milky drinks, curd or yoghurt may
more oxygen). problems are at risk and sooth the problem.
This can should avoid going to altitude. Before you go: Rotting toilet paper and piles of
sometimes lead At altitude: • Plan how to get clean water so you poo ruin places. Don’t just leave it!
are not afraid to drink plenty.
Before you go: • Walk slowly, don’t race. • Take rehydration sachets and / or
• Get as fit as possible. • Take plenty of rests. know how to make up your own. At altitude:
• Try the level of exercise out at • Drink plenty of fluids. • Find out about traveller’s diarrhoea • Drink plenty.
home before you try it at altitude. • If you have any problems, stay at and how to treat it. • Take your favourite snacks to eat
• Make sure you have all your that altitude, don’t go higher. • Have a group plan for disposal of when you’re off the food.
medications / prescriptions. • If problems persist then descend. toilet paper ‘in the field’. • Always wash your hands.
On a Medex trip, my BP was recorded at 168/118 one day. The group doctor said When high on a Patagonian glacier a climber had to demand a sudden stop to
this was common on ascending but usually sorted itself out as you acclimatise. He drop his salopettes whilst roped due to traveller’s diarrhoea. On a bivouac that
advised that my rest day was to be taken very easily, even though I felt fine. evening he took some antibiotics and was able to continue the next day.
TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE 21 22 TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE

THE KIDNEY / BLADDER THE JOINTS / MUSCLES


As you acclimatise, your body after drinking Most people who go on of joint pain just because the
will naturally make more urine. This two litres of adventure holidays feel new aches person is at high altitude.
is a good sign but may mean you fluid you or pains with the extra exercise. The knee joints and leg muscles
need to pee more during the day may have a Getting fit are usually the problem areas!
and night. urine before you Support bandages or braces can be
Exercise in the dry air and heat infection go is useful. However, it is best to try and
of altitude can cause dehydration needing important, improve your muscle strength so
which can be made worse by antibiotic whether that supports are not needed.
traveller’s diarrhoea. Thirst, treatment. skiing, Using two trekking poles when
headache and tiredness are often Older men walking, walking can reduce the load on the
signs of dehydration. These can be naturally horse knee joints, especially if there are
prevented by drinking several litres develop riding or lots of down-hills where the strain
of safe fluid per day. Peeing at least enlargement cycling so on the knees is greatest. This could
four times a day with a good of their that you be helpful if you already have a
volume of clear urine shows that prostate glands which can increase can enjoy joint problem. Reducing your weight
enough fluid is going in at the top frequency and urgency in passing your trip. (if you are overweight) or that of
end. urine at sea level. This can lead to There has been no research your backpack helps.
Frequent painful peeing of small painful retention of urine. If in doubt done that has shown a higher risk
volumes (cystitis) can be a sign of get checked by your doctor well
Before you go: At altitude:
dehydration. If it does not settle before you travel.
• Get fit with any form of exercise that • If your joints or muscles start to
is practical and increases your hurt, slow down, lighten the load,
Before you go: heart-rate. and / or consider a rest day.
• Buy a good pee bottle for night use. At altitude: • Try and include at least a full day’s • If you normally have joint pains,
• Ladies consider a Shewee or • Keep hydrated. suitable exercise each week for the make sure you take your regular
similar. • Keep hydrated! month prior to departure. painkillers with you.
• Ladies may find a skirt easier for • Keep hydrated! • If you are going to use trekking • The temperature can be colder -
discreet peeing. poles, get used to them before you make sure you have enough layers
leave. to stay warm.
A normally fit trekker felt exhausted with a headache at the end of an easy day at
increasing altitude. She was worried she was developing AMS but made a rapid After 6 hours riding on the first day, my knees were killing me. I knew I should
recovery after drinking two litres of purified water flavoured with lemon juice. have ridden more than 3 times before we went. I suffered over the next few days!
TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE 23 24 TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE

THE EXTREMITIES THE EYES


At high altitude you are at more die. This is The high level of UV light at vision at altitude but this resolves
risk from burning and freezing. High very altitude can burn the eyes (snow on descent. Don’t get laser
levels of UV radiation at altitude serious blindness), like ‘arc eye’ which treatment just before you travel -
can easily cause sunburn. Low and may welders get - it feels like sand in the think ahead.
temperatures and low oxygen make lead to eyes. Rest, padding the eyes, Tiny bleeds at the back of the
it easier for your skin to develop amputation lubricant drops and painkillers will eye can occur (retinal
frostbite, especially in people who of fingers help. Good sunglasses or goggles haemorrhages),
already have poor circulation (such and toes. are needed on glaciers even when which can affect
as in Raynaud’s disease). Body parts most at risk of it’s cloudy - UV gets through patches of vision.
Frostbite can happen to any sunburn and cold injuries are those clouds. Choose glasses designed Usually these are
body part in freezing temperatures ‘sticking out’ - lips, toes, nose, chin, for the mountains and not for not dangerous and
and / or high winds. Early signs of fingers, ears - so they will need fashion. Prescription sunglasses will disappear after
frostbite are white, numb and hard extra protection. and goggles can be made. a few weeks.
skin. Re-warming is very painful Swelling around the hands, face Contact lenses can be used, but Descend if you lose
and the skin may go red, itchy, and ankles at altitude is common. very strict hygiene is a must, which vision in either eye
blotchy and swollen. If freezing This is not serious, but it may be is difficult at altitude. Daily at altitude.
goes on, blisters may develop and worth checking for other problems. disposable lenses are fine but must
At altitude:
finally the skin can go black and be removed at night. Laser
At altitude: refractive surgery can blur your • Wear your goggles when it is bright.
Before you go: • Keep hands and feet dry, change Before you go:
• If you lose your goggles improvise
wet gloves / socks quickly. using cardboard with thin slits to
• Get suncreen (SPF 15-30). • Get glacier goggles / glasses. look through.
• Get total sun block. • Wear properly fitted kit.
• Sort out contact lenses and • Make sure staff have goggles and
• Get warm gloves, socks, hat, boots • Apply sunscreen / block regularly. cleaning fluid. wear them.
- be sure they fit properly. • Cover up from sun, cold and wind. • If you need glasses, get spares. • Maintain hygiene if using contacts.
During an avalanche in the Himalayas, nine people were killed and several others A 29 year old man used daily disposable soft contact lenses on Mount Everest. He
were injured. The injured were air-lifted out to hospital. The porters involved were didn’t change his lenses for four days, and on summit day wore sunglasses, not
left behind to find their own way down, carrying the equipment of their clients. goggles. At 8,600m his vision became blurred. At the summit he couldn’t see the
Some of the porters never made it back, but died from the cold. The clothing they view or navigate. He was helped down by two Sherpas. He had snow blindness
had was not good enough for the conditions, but they dare not open the bags and a bacterial infection. A doctor peeled the contact lenses from his eyes, but the
they were carrying. They died beside bags containing warm mountain clothing. scarring has left his vision permanently reduced. It could have cost his life.
TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE 25 26 TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE

THE MOUTH / TEETH THE EARS / NOSE


Your mouth and throat will get Visit the dentist before you travel. As you ascend to altitude, Failure to warm and moisten air
dry when you breathe through your Painful teeth for days (or weeks) problems with ears and noses when breathing in leads to a sore
mouth. Drink lots and use cough could ruin your trip. increase. Sunburn and skin throat, persistent cough or in the
lozenges. All problems with teeth can be damage to the ears and nose is a worst cases, damage to the areas
The sun can burn your lower lip prevented. Poor hygiene can trigger painful problem. of the lung essential for the normal
badly. Using a zinc sun screen will the wisdom teeth problems which Changes in the inner ear trigger passage of oxygen.
help to protect it. younger people often get. The cold the symptoms of dizziness and
air at altitude will upset un-treated light-headedness commonly
broken fillings and cavities. found in AMS.
Too much sugar may make a One of the commonest
decayed cavity so painful that it problems at high altitude is a
needs root treatment or extraction blocked nose. Although this
which is, in most cases, impossible seems to be a minor hardship
on an expedition. when life threatening
Most teeth and gum infections conditions seem just around
can be helped for a short time with the corner, a blocked nose
Amoxycillin and Metronidazole. You upsets the normal warming
can also take ibuprofen to cut down and humidifying process that is At altitude:
swelling. essential to keep the lungs healthy. • Dizziness could be a sign of AMS.
• Wear a wide brimmed hat and use
Before you go: sunblock on ears, nose and insides
At altitude: Before you go: of nostrils.
• Dental check with x-rays at least 6 • Drink lots to moisten mouth, lips • Ensure gloves have a soft, • Use or improvise a nose guard on
weeks before you travel. and throat. sunglasses.
absorbent patch over the thumb -
• Buy zinc glacier cream for lips. • Protect lips with zinc cream. great for wiping your nose! • Blow your nose regularly.
• Buy a chap stick. • Take antibiotics and ibuprofen for • Pack tissues and wipes, high factor • Use a barrier cream (eg Vaseline)
• Buy cough lozenges. dental swellings and severe pain. sun-block and barrier cream. to protect dried, cracked skin.

In one month at Namche Bazaar dental clinic the author of this page treated A climber with a cold was suffering from a runny nose and spent 2 days climbing
climbers from seven expeditions whose summit hopes on Everest, Lhotse, Ramtang on glaciers and snowfields. The reflected sunlight badly burned the
Nuptse, Ama Dablam and Pumori were ended by serious dental symptoms. None underside of his nose as the sun-block had been washed off. It took almost a
had dental checks before leaving home. week to recover fully.
TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE 27 28 TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE

THE REPRODUCTIVE BITS SLEEP


Ladies - acclimatisation taking the combined contraceptive Disturbed sleep during the first Altitude may increase the
increases the body’s iron-rich red pill at altitude. In reality this risk is few nights at altitude is common number of times you need to pee,
blood cells. If you suffer from heavy low in a fit, active, non smoking and normal. You may be slow in so you lose more sleep.
periods discuss iron supplements lady unless staying above 4,500m getting to sleep, wake up a lot and Many changes are because you
with your doctor before travelling. for over a week. Many women use feel that you have not slept well, or breathe more. In some people this
When travelling, periods can be ‘the pill’ for period control. feel less refreshed. may cause ‘periodic breathing’ at
difficult and disposing of sanitary Progesterone is safe at any Poor sleep may be related to night, where rapid breathing is
wear a problem. Periods can be altitude and is available as the ‘mini how well your followed by periods when breathing
controlled, maybe by a change in pill’. In an injection, implant body is briefly stops, sometimes causing
contraception. This needs planning. contraception or Intra Uterine adjusting. As you to wake up. This is common
There may be an increased risk System (Mirena) it may also you over 2,800m, and almost everyone
of blood clots in the legs when prevent periods. acclimatise gets it over 5,000m. Apart from
Ladies and gents - barrier sleep usually worrying your tent mate, it does not
methods such as condoms don’t improves. appear to be harmful and gets
give full protection against disease. People with better with acclimatisation.
Abstention always works. Dispose AMS may Snoring may be made worse by
of condoms properly as they take also sleep badly, suggesting poor dry, dusty air but night-time
many years to rot. acclimatisation. blockage of the airway at sea level
A child’s organs are being Other things such as cold, (‘obstructive sleep apnoea’) does
formed in the first three months in someone snoring, or an not appear to get worse with
the womb. It is probably best to uncomfortable bed or tent may also altitude.
avoid high altitude during this time. be a problem.
At altitude:
Before you go:
• Expect to need more sleep.
• Invest in your sleep comfort - a • Consider avoiding caffeine and
Before you go: good quality sleeping bag and mat.
alcohol later in the day.
• Plan contraception and period • Bring ear plugs to aid sleep.
control 6 months before travelling. • If your sleep does not improve after
• If being treated for obstructive sleep a few nights do not go higher -
apnoea, check with a specialist consider going down to allow
After a successful trek to the summit of Kilimanjaro (5,895m) a traveller celebrated sleep doctor. acclimatisation.
with a tour of the east African coast and game parks. He avoided malaria but
returned home HIV positive. I slept so badly! My tent mate must have got up every hour in the night to pee!
TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE 29 30 TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE

CHILDREN AT ALTITUDE PORTERS


Children have the same altitude or If you (or your travel company) The International Porter
problems at high altitude as adults, descend until are hiring porters to help with your Protection Group (IPPG) have set
but it is more difficult to tell when they are better. holiday, you are responsible for clear standards which all parties
they are having these problems. It Older children them. You must consider their should aim to achieve. These
is essential to climb slowly to allow can describe the health and safety – it is as include the provision of:
children time to acclimatise. symptoms of important as your own. • Adequate clothing and footwear.
Young children can’t tell you AMS, which are Porters who have trekking jobs • Adequate shelter, food and drink.
how they feel. The carer should be the same as for don’t always live at high altitude all • Medical care and life insurance.
guided by the child’s fussiness, adults. Assume the time. They can suffer from • Care on descent if ill.
eating, sleeping and playing. If symptoms are altitude illnesses in the same way • Appropriate sized load to carry.
these are worse than usual the caused by that visitors do. In the past ill
child should be assumed to have altitude and stay porters were seen as ‘useless ’, Questions to ask companies (or
altitude illness and stay at the same at the same ‘paid off’ and sent home. Many died yourself)
altitude or going down alone. 1. Does the company you are thinking
Before you go: of trekking with follow IPPG's five
descend until
• Discuss plans with your doctor at guidelines on porter safety?
they are better. 2. What is their policy on equipment
least 3 months before leaving.
• Think about: clothing, clean water At altitude: and health care for porters?
supply, strange food, sunscreen, • Treatment for children with altitude 3. What do they do to ensure the
sunglasses, preventing boredom illness is the same as for adults, but trekking staff are properly trained to
and realistic goals. children weighing below 40kg need look after porters' welfare?
• Consider how you would get help if smaller doses of medicines and 4. What is their policy on training and
your child became seriously ill and prefer syrups.
monitoring porter care by its local
who would look after them if you • Carry a card with children’s weight, ground operator?
became ill. drugs and doses on.
5. Do they ask about treatment of
• Be sure this is a sensible holiday for • Remember descent is the best porters in their post trek
the children. treatment.
questionnaire to clients?
4 year old Tommy was taken to Colorado’s Arapahoe Basin ski resort at 3,290m.
He had enjoyed staying with friends lower in the valley, but was very unsettled Kulbahadur, a 33 year old porter was left by the trail when he was too ill to carry
during the first night at the resort. The next day he was miserable and refused his load in the Everest National Park. Later he was found unconscious by another
meals. After he was sick he was taken to the resort doctor who diagnosed AMS trekking group, eventually losing his feet to frostbite. He never knew the name of
and recommended descent. In the valley he was back to normal 6 hours later. the company or the nationality of the trekkers he was carrying a load for.
TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE 31 32 TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE

WHAT TO DO IN AN EMERGENCY INCIDENT RECORD CARD


• The fact you are reading this • Treat casualties as best you can. Fill out as much of the incident For each casualty:
section suggests that you are Prioritise care based on how bad record card as you can before
planning ahead or that each injury is. Basic first aid is leaving the scene. It contains
something has gone badly OK. Simple splinting and kind Name:
valuable information for
wrong. Whatever the case, the words can go a long way.
most important thing is not to • Make evacuation plans - local
emergency staff and may help Date of birth:
panic. The following points are transport, carry or helicopter. further treatment of the casualties.
aimed at helping you to deal with • Keep everyone warm and safe Allergies:
an emergency. until help arrives - it could be For your group:
• Make sure everyone is safe - minutes, hours or days. Medication:
yourself, any casualties, the rest Exact location:
of the group. If one person has
hypothermia, the chances are Previous medical problems:
Type of incident:
others may have it too. Move to (what happened)
somewhere safe if you have to. Time of last meal / drink:
Do not become another casualty.
• Have one person in charge.
Hazards in area: What happened:
• Collect the information you need.
Use ‘ETHANE’ as a guide. Access to the area:
(how to get to you)
Exact location. Injuries:
Type of incident. Helicopter Landing Zone Number of casualties:
Hazards to rescuers. • Find firm, level ground (or even
Access to the incident. slope below 10º), about 100 paces Treatment given:
in diameter. Equipment needed:
Number of injured / ill. • Clear loose objects & people from
Equipment required. the area.
• Communicate. The sooner you • Mark with ‘H' using stones, or use
flashing torch or brightly coloured
call for help, the better. Radios clothing to attract attention.
and telephones may not work in • 1 person stand outside zone, back
the mountains. Give your to wind making Y shape with arms. Time: Date:
location first (so they know where • Do not go to helicopter until told to
the problem is). Be accurate. by the crew. Name of recorder: Signature:
TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE 33 34 TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE

PILLS & POTIONS Problem Drug Dose


AMS Paracetamol 500mg tablet, 2 tablets 4 times a day
Headache and / or ibuprofen 400mg tablet, 1 tablet 3 times a day
No trip to high altitude should Always carry a letter from your AMS Metoclopramide 10mg tablet up to 3 times a day
leave without certain medicines. doctor about your medicines to Nausea or Prochlorperazine 1 to 2x5mg tablets up to 3 times a day
Some are prescription only and avoid legal problems.
AMS Acetazolamide Half a 250mg tablet 2 times a day,
should only be taken on the
Prevention started 24hrs before ascent
advice of a doctor. Some of
them can save your life HACE Oxygen gas Breathed continuously - cylinder or
while others will ease some pressure bag
symptoms, leaving you to Dexamethasone 8 - 16mg a day in divided doses, for up
enjoy the trip. - Corticosteroid to 5 days
Opposite is a brief list of Acetazolamide 250mg tablet, 1 tablet 3 times a day
drugs used at altitude. Use HAPE Oxygen gas Breathed continuously - cylinder or
it to help you decide what pressure bag
to take, but remember Nifedipine 20mg MR tablet 2 times a day
medical advice changes so Acetazolamide 250mg tablet, 1 tablet 3 times a day
check before you go. Diarrhoea Ciprofloxacin 750mg 2 times a day
Before you go: At altitude:
or Azithromycin Capsules taken daily for 3 days
• Take this list to your doctor and use • Make sure you have your Loperamide 2mg capsules taken up to 8 times
it to discuss what to take and how medicines and doctor’s letter. Dehydration Electrolyte rehydration in 200ml of boiled and cooled water
to administer it. • Carry medicines labelled with the solution
• Buy medicines at home. Your doses in quick to open, zip-lok
Infections Amoxycillin 250mg 3 times a day for at least 5 days
chemist should stock all except bags. Keep them in two or more
oxygen. Medicines may be cheaper places in case you lose some. and / or Metronidazole 200mg 4 times a day or as
abroad but may be fake. • Always wash tablets down with recommended by doctor
• Confirm any allergies. water - they will work better.
Cough Pholcodine Linctus 10ml up to 4 times a day
Sore Throat Lozenges with anaesthetic i.e. Benzocaine
I was stung on the shoulder with a needle-like pain. Three minutes later I started
to feel itchy. After another minute I fell into someone's arms as the 'lights went Dry chapped Lip balm & sunscreen with at least SPF 15 - skin section
out'. The team shouted for our medical barrel. Oxygen, adrenalin, antihistamine lips and skin Moisturiser cream
and a drip were all given in a matter of minutes. An hour later I started to recover. Blocked Pseudoephedrine 60mg 3 times a day
Next day I was able to carry on with the trip. I owe my life to the quick actions of nose or Xylometazoline Nasal spray
our group’s doctor. I now always carry an EpiPen in case I get stung again. Cold sores Aciclovir 5% cream - 5 times a day for 5 days
TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE 35 36 TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE

OXYGEN PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS


The lack of oxygen causes many ‘bag’, known as a Portable Altitude People do go to high altitudes With any condition there is more
high altitude illnesses, the only real Chamber, Certec or ‘Gamow Bag’. with pre-existing medical risk to health when travelling to
way to fix the problem is to get The bag is ‘pumped up’ to increase conditions. If you suffer from a remote locations. The key is to
more oxygen. This can be done the pressure inside - so the oxygen condition, you must talk to your lower this risk as far as possible. Be
simply and sensibly by breathed is like that 2,000m lower. doctor about whether or not you prepared to give up part or all of
DESCENDING, or if this is The person should stay inside for 1 should go to high altitude and, if your trip for safety reasons.
impossible there are two ways to hour but may need several hours. you do, how you should take care
get more oxygen at altitude. Lifting the head end may help with of yourself.
(1) From an oxygen bottle breathing. Although these bags can Before you go:
Oxygen cylinders can be fitted with be a life-saver, there are problems: • See your doctor / specialist at least 6 months before your trip. Find out about
a face mask. The person needing • Hard to talk to the person inside. the risks your condition poses for travel at high altitude.
oxygen simply puts on the mask • An unconscious person needs • Make a medical plan and what, if any, support you will need. Find out what
and breathes in the oxygen, mixed someone inside to monitor them. medical help may be available. Think about what you will do if things go wrong.
with some of the surrounding air. If • They can • Make a contacts list for your condition for home / where you are going.
using a ‘constant flow’ kit (oxygen damage the • Make everyone aware of your medical condition, the signs, symptoms and
treatment. Your illness could affect everyone in your group.
flowing all the time) at 2 litres per eardrums.
• Get first aid / medical training for yourself and others if necessary.
minute, a bottle containing 300litres • The air
will last 2 to 3 hours. If using a inside needs
• Make a kit with your medicines. Make clear labels and instructions. Have spare
supplies and split the kit between people to lower the chance of losing it all.
‘demand flow’ kit (oxygen flows only changing. • Ask your doctor to prepare an official letter, explaining your condition, treatment
when breathing in), the same bottle • Recovery is and contact details (translate if necessary).
may last 6 to 9 hours. often short- • Tell your travel nurse about your conditions before vaccinations, etc.
(2) Inside a pressure bag lived. • Get medical insurance that covers your condition and the risks of the trip. It can
Those suffering from AMS, HAPE be hard, very expensive or impossible to cover what some people want.
or HACE can be placed inside a At altitude:
A couple decided to climb Kilimanjaro (5,895m) by the Marangu route. After two
• Always carry your medical information letter / MedicAlert bracelet.
days trekking they reached the Horombo Hut (3,760m). Within two hours the • Each day, write down medicines taken and any changes in your condition.
husband began to feel breathless. During the night he began to cough up pink • If symptoms worsen avoid further ascent, consider the possibility of altitude
frothy spit and became unconscious. He had HAPE and was placed inside a related illnesses and descend as necessary.
‘Gamow Bag’ for 4 hours. He came round and was able to descend with porters’ • Be honest with everyone about changes in your medical condition.
help. In hospital he made a complete recovery. • Look after your family, friends and other travellers.
TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE 37 38 TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE

DIABETES LUNG CONDITIONS


Before you go: Before you go:
• Before booking get a specialist eye test. If you have eye damage avoid going • Know that even mild breathlessness at home can seriously affect you at altitude.
very high. • Ensure you are up to date with travel vaccinations and consider flu vaccine.
• Before booking get expert medical advice if you have poor circulation or nerve • Build up training, starting at lower altitudes and lower levels of exertion.
damage.
• Establish good glucose control over preceding months. At altitude:
• Get a robust glucose monitor (and spare) that will work at altitude and in the cold. • Gain height gradually without rushing.
• Find out what you will be eating. Plan your diet. • Prevent problems - reduce activity, take medication and descend if needed.
• Take spare insulin to cover changes in requirements. ASTHMA
• Practise managing diabetes when exercising hard and in adverse conditions. Some people get worse as cold and exercise trigger attacks. Most improve due to
an increase in the body’s own steroids and reduced airborne allergens.
• Make contact with ‘Mountains for Active Diabetics’ (MAD).
At altitude: Before you go:
• Always carry emergency glucose, glucose monitor and medication. • Do not go unless your asthma is stable.
• Stop insulin freezing e.g. inside pocket close to skin. • Ensure you are up to date with travel vaccinations and consider flu vaccine.
• Avoid infection. Get help fast if you become ill. Never stop insulin. • Include spare inhalers / spacers and steroids.
• Remember exercise reduces and rest increases insulin need. • Know triggers for your asthma and try to avoid these on your trip.
HEART CONDITIONS & HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
• Build up training, starting at lower altitudes and lower levels of exertion.
At altitude:
Before you go:
• Get your heart checked out and get advice on emergency medications for new • Carry all your inhalers at all times.
onset chest pain. • Prevent problems by reducing activity, taking medication and descend if needed.
• Have a stable and acceptable blood pressure prior to departure. • Avoid anti-inflammatory drugs (like aspirin and ibuprofen).
• Find out about problems with BP medicines with exercise, altitude and cold. EPILEPSY
Before you go:
At altitude:
• If you feel unwell, stop further ascent, consider descent. Tell your companions. • Make sure your epilepsy is stable. Aim to be seizure free for at least 6 months.
• Be aware of issues regarding driving, belaying, etc and make sure your
ALLERGIES / ANAPHYLAXIS companions are aware of the problems.
Once a reaction has been treated it may recur, without warning, within the next 24 • Ensure any Malaria medication doesn’t interfere with your own medication.
hours. Aim to get to medical care as soon as possible.
At altitude:
Before you go: • Avoid illness - it may affect your medication.
• Get adrenaline, antihistamines and steroids. • Know your epilepsy trigger factors (e.g. alcohol, tiredness) and avoid them.
At altitude: • Epileptic medications can affect sleep and change coordination. These
• Carry MedicAlert bracelet / necklace with allergies on it. symptoms can also be caused by altitude illness, if in doubt descend.
• Carry auto-injector adrenaline (EpiPen) at all times and be prepared to use it. • Remember fits in some places could be life threatening, and you may be drowsy
after fits and need rest .
TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE 39 40 TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE

HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT RECOMMENDED READING


The Food is hard to grow: The High Altitude Medicine Handbook, by Drs Pollard & Murdoch
environment at • Buy food where it is plentiful.
high altitude is • Take care if buying food in Bugs, Bites, and Bowels, by Dr Wilson-Howarth
more fragile remote areas - people may be Altitude Illness: Prevention & Treatment, by Dr Stephen Bezruchka
than at low selling you their winter rations.
altitudes. As a Wood is precious: Pocket First Aid and Wilderness Medicine, by Drs Jim Duff and Peter
result, natural • Ensure you take all the fuel you Gormley
processes are need with you - for everyone.
incredibly slow • Actively discourage staff from
and any collecting and burning wood.
damage can • Support tree planting schemes.
be more long Waste is a huge problem:
lasting. • Don’t buy bottled water - empty
At home water, fuel, food supply bottles have nowhere to go.
and sewage disposal are rarely a • Carry out everything you carry in.
concern for us. At high altitude we Take packaging off at home.
need to be responsible. What we • Dispose of batteries back home.
do will affect the local people and • Be aware of what is happening to
others who visit the area after us. all your group’s waste and stop
Be aware that some hosts are bad practices.
now stretching their precious • Use deep, well placed pit
resources to the limit to provide latrines. Bury deep or spread poo
‘modern’ facilities to make guests (or carry it), it can take years to
‘happy’. break down.
Water is scarce: • Plan sanitary wear disposal.
• Do nothing that will pollute rivers. Flora and Fauna are adapted to a
• Avoid hot / cold showers - a bowl fragile life at high altitude:
of water will do. • Don’t uproot plants.
• Use an earth toilet, not a flush • Avoid damaging thin soils.
toilet. • Protect all wildlife.
TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE 41 42 TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE

USEFUL WEBSITES CREDITS


Medex would like to thank the following for their written contributions:
Damien Bailey The Joints / Muscles Mark Howarth The Eyes, Healthy Environment
Denzil Broadhurst Finding out about High Altitude, Olly Kemp The Lungs
What is High Altitude, Where in Juliette Levement The Lungs, Sleep
the World is High?, Europe, Mandy Jones Sleep
North & South America, Africa, Ian Manovel Pills & Potions
Asia, Acclimatisation, The Alex Martin-Bates Pre-Existing Conditions
Effects of Altitude, Acute Dan Morris The Eyes
Mountain Sickness Stephan Sanders Children at High Altitude
Mike Brookes What to do in an Emergency Eli Silber The Brain
Keith Burgess Sleep Chris Smith Europe, HAPE, HACE, Porters,
Simon Currin Preface Healthy Environment
Gerald Dubowitz The Heart / Blood, Sleep Jill Sutclife Healthy Environment
David Geddes The Mouth / Teeth Henriette Van Ruiten The Extremities
Sandra Green The Joints / Muscles Catharine Wilson Africa, Australasia, Antarctica,
David Hillebrandt HAPE, HACE, The Stomach / Acute Mountain Sickness, The
Bowels, The Kidney / Bladder, Lungs
The Reproductive Bits Jeremy Windsor The Ears / Nose, Oxygen

Medex would like to thank the following for their case studies:
Jim Duff, Gill Macquarie, Martin Rhodes, Ronnie Robb, Jacky Smith
British Mountaineering Council (BMC) www.thebmc.co.uk/medicine Medex would like to thank the following for their photographs:
Certec www.certec.eu.com Bruce Bricknell Page 33 Chris Smith Front cover, Page II, 5, 11,
Epilepsy action website www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/sportsandleisure/index Denzil Broadhurst Page 17, 23 15, 19, 21, 22, 28, 30, 31, 39
Simon Currin Page III, 9, 10, Back cover Jacky Smith Page 29
Foreign & Commonwealth Office travel advice www.fco.gov.uk/travel Diana Depla Page 24 Catharine Wilson Page 42
Frostbite www.christopherimray.co.uk/highaltitudemedicine/frostbite.htm Gerald Dubowitz Page 12, 14, 20, 26, 41 Jeremy Windsor Page 35
Gamow Bag www.chinookmed.com Rachel Hamilton Page 6
David Hillebrandt Page 25, 27
General travel information www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk Annabel Nickol Page 7
International Porter Protection Group (IPPG) www.ippg.net/guidelines/index.html Gill Macquarie Page 4, 40
International Society for Mountain Medicine (ISMM) Nick Mason Page 2
Ronnie Robb Page 13
www.ismmed.org/np_altitude_tutorial.htm Stephan Sanders Page 1, 3,
Kathmandu Environmental Education Project (KEEP) www.keepnepal.org Dorje Sherpa Page 8
MEDEX www.medex.org.uk
Medex would also like to thank:
- has a full list of UK doctors holding the UIAA Diploma of Mountain Medicine All those who commented on the booklet drafts
Mountains for Active Diabetics (MAD) www.mountain-mad.org The UIAA for their supporting grant
Oxygen (constant flow system) www.topout.co.uk and www.poisk-ltd.ru Editors:
Oxygen (demand flow system) www.summitoxygen.com General: Denzil Broadhurst, Chris Smith
Portable Altitude Chamber (PAC) www.treksafe.com.au Medical: Simon Currin, David Hillebrandt, Jim Milledge, Paul Richards
Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme (UIAA) www.uiaa.ch/index.aspx
TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE 43 44 TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE

DAILY AMS SCORES PERSONAL DETAILS


NAME: You may wish to add

Day
14
13
12
11
10
9 a photograph of
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
yourself to this page.
Headache, Guts, Fatigue, Dizziness, Sleeping, TOTAL

DATE OF BIRTH:

Alt
NEXT OF KIN
CONTACT

H G F D S
DETAILS:

Morning
MEDICATIONS:

AMS Score
T
ALLERGIES:
H G F D S
Evening SIGNIFICANT
MEDICAL
PROBLEMS
e.g. diabetes, high
blood pressure
T

TREATMENT
INFORMATION:
Score 0=Fine to 3=Worst

Notes

INSURANCE
DETAILS:
TRAVEL AT HIGH ALTITUDE

Planning the trip of a lifetime, a holiday with a difference, skiing


in the high mountains or a mountaineering expedition?
This booklet is written to help you understand some of the ways your
body may change as it has to cope with high altitude and the ‘thin air’. It is
full of information, tips and stories to help you enjoy your trip and stay
healthy. Most importantly, it also covers the serious altitude illnesses
which still kill those unaware of the risks.
This booklet is recommended by:
Association of British Mountain Guides (BMG)
British Mountaineering Council (BMC)
International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA)