Friday, July 09, 2010

One Family's Return Trip: Altitude Sickness

I have never had altitude sickness before when visiting Colombia. But, always before we have lived at 4,500 ft, and the ascent to 8,661 (the altitude of Bogotá) wasn't too much of a stretch. This time, however, we are coming from Sea Level and I have to admit I am a bit concerned -- especially for my little Colombianito. Last year, we took him from our 4,500 feet to the top of Pikes Peak (14, 110) -- a nearly 10,000 foot climb in 2 hours. He turned blue in the lips and started vomiting. We had to pack up the car and head down the mountain -- much to the chagrin of older brother. This time, we plan to stay at that high altitude for 3 weeks, and unfortunately for us, Acute Mountain Sickness (Altitude Sickness) is most common in children. Ouch!!

For adults, there seem to be medical and herbal solutions, but nothing for kids. Double Ouch!

The good news is that symptoms usually disappear withing a few days. However, if they get worse, it could lead to high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) or high-altitude cerebral edema
(HACE) -- both of which are very serious. In reality, I am not too worried. But, it is something to be aware of.


For your information, the following score card is used by Mountain Climbers to assess their sickness.




Acute Mountain Sickness Scorecard

Symptom.........................................Score

Headache........................................................1
Nausea or loss of appetite ................................1
Sleeping problems (insomnia) .........................1
Giddiness/Dizziness..................................... ...1
Headache that remains after aspirin................2
Vomiting.........................................................2
Difficult breathing at rest...............................3
Abnormal or intense fatigue............................3
Decreased urination........................................3

Total Score AMS Degree Treatment

1-3 Light Aspirin or Acetaminophen
4-6 Moderate Aspirin or Acetaminophen; rest, prevent ascent
> 6 Acute Descend, Descend, Descend!

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