Altitude Sickness

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JoeyJ
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Altitude Sickness

Post by JoeyJ »

Whether or not a troll wrote the brief trip report titled "Altitude Sickness"…? Not sure, but I’ll share what happened to me here. It was very humbling, and came as a complete surprise.

I’ve been above 14k multiple times every year since 2001 and never had a problem. But spent one night this March above 13k in Nepal and didn’t sleep a wink while gasping for breath all night. Easily the worst nite I’ve ever had in the mountains... It was the onset of altitude sickness, and the next day I became an official member of the lollipop gut-wrenching guild and vomited most of the next day until I got down to Phortse Tenga. Could not eat, could not hold anything down including liquids and everything I drank came back up to the point of dry heaves. Horrendous day I’ll never forget- just horrible! Barely made it out the teahouse once to ralph – hit the ground was on my hands and knees just outside the door thinking about how ‘I’d never set foot on a mountain again.’ (haha, another never again moment) A Nepalese lady was outside close by washing clothes, and prob thought I drank too much beer the night before! But it was all AMS, I had no alcohol. I got a sinus infection up high at the same time there, which combined with the AMS shut down my Everest base camp trek from going any higher. No fun.

So I can relate, I was offered helicopter evacs too, even told I’d be forced to helivac out if I didn’t get better by the next day, but was able to walk out slowly. It’s nice to have helivac options when you’re super sick, and I will ever commend the amiable Sherpas that ran back down to help me get down to a lower altitude fast! They brought a basket and I would have been stuffed in that crazy thing and carried down to a chopper pad if I couldn’t walk- (imagine having to puke while confined in this small basket while being carried on rough terrain!)- so if nothing else AMS is a good motivator to get down. If I ever go back to Nepal, I’ll need more time to acclimate coming from 1000 ft!

Be aware. It could happen to you! I may have escaped being a basket case this time- but next time that basket is all mine! ;)
Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. -Abe Lincoln
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Dave B
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Re: Altitude Sickness

Post by Dave B »

^^^ too much humility and down to earthiness. Needs more narcissism and unearned self importance.

Seriously, I'm glad to hear such things can be caused by AMS, I honestly had no clue. But it's important that we are able to correctly identify problems with ourselves and our partners when in the backcountry. Thanks for posting.
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peter303
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Re: Altitude Sickness

Post by peter303 »

I gotten sick about three times in several hundred excusions above treeline.
Some you can read this both ways:
- for the most part if you prepare you can beat it
- however it does strike totally out of the blue somethimes for some people and you should be aware of that
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JoeyJ
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Re: Altitude Sickness

Post by JoeyJ »

No prob Dave!
BTW there were 2 doctors in Phortse at the teahouse I stayed that happened to be trekking, one US and one Canadian, and they both confirmed I had AMS and not to go any higher until I felt better. The US doc also gave me some anti-biotics for the sinus infection- but that didn't go away until I got back to the good ol USA! Thankfully our team got back before the monster deadly quake too, and happy to report all of the Sherpas working with us there are AOK now.
Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. -Abe Lincoln
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Yukon Ron
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Re: Altitude Sickness

Post by Yukon Ron »

While bagging the summit of Mt. Blanc, 3 of the members of my 5 man team were European, and literally did nothing to acclimate themselves for very high altitude, except starting a pill regimen a few days prior to the climb. In no way were they in any better physical shape than I, and they totally kicked my butt. I was seriously dragging at 14.5K and at 15.5ish, I thought I was going to die and never gain the summit (exaggeration, but not by much.). We did it in late April, and it was a classic all things went to heck in a hurry during the climb.

They told me the name of the medication, and it is specifically for high altitude climbing, and it is supposedly available here in the States. It is called Diamox. I am getting that for the next summit.

I have been doing this for 30 years, I had never seen these guys move without complaints of joint pain, headaches, shortness of breath, nausea, headaches, etc., and this time they got me. This stuff works, and if you knew these old guys, who spend more time smoking and drinking than any other activity, and saw them move the way they did, well, I was blown away.

Has anyone had experience with this med?
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Dave B
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Re: Altitude Sickness

Post by Dave B »

Yukon Ron wrote:Has anyone had experience with this med?
Diamox is pretty common. Side-effects are unpleasant (in my experience in Argentina). Something along the lines of feeling as if low voltage electrical current is flowing through... your butt-hole. I s**t you not (pun intended).
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akoller
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Re: Altitude Sickness

Post by akoller »

Diamox isn't for everyone -- I found that I felt much better without it. It made me feel jittery and nervous.
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Yukon Ron
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Re: Altitude Sickness

Post by Yukon Ron »

Dave B wrote:
Yukon Ron wrote:Has anyone had experience with this med?
Diamox is pretty common. Side-effects are unpleasant (in my experience in Argentina). Something along the lines of feeling as if low voltage electrical current is flowing through... your butt-hole. I s**t you not (pun intended).
I had never felt so beat down after the climb, and not having enough time to get my body used to the time difference I could not sleep for a couple of days afterwards. I will plan better, obviously, but, I must tell you, I was very impressed. These guys typically start bitc#ing at 9K.....
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martinleroux
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Re: Altitude Sickness

Post by martinleroux »

More than you probably want to know:

Identifying the lowest effective dose of acetazolamide [Diamox] for the prophylaxis of acute mountain sickness: systematic review and meta-analysis
British Medical Journal, 2012
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/article ... .e6779.pdf

"This systematic review and meta-analysis summarises the current evidence on the efficacy of acetazolamide 250 mg, 500 mg, and 750 mg daily in the prevention of acute mountain sickness. A systematic search of relevant published and unpublished literature identified 11 [randomised, placebo-controlled] trials for inclusion in the review. The results showed that at all three doses acetazolamide was efficacious in preventing acute mountain sickness above 3000 m. Acetazolamide 250 mg was the lowest effective dose for which there was evidence for this indication".
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Trotter
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Re: Altitude Sickness

Post by Trotter »

ibuprofin is an over the counter drug thats been proven in studies to prevent some altitude sickness.

I always take a couple before starting a 14er hike. If nothing else, it helps with the muscle soreness
After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. -Nelson Mandela
Whenever I climb I am followed by a dog called Ego. -Nietzsche
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SchralpTheGnar
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Re: Altitude Sickness

Post by SchralpTheGnar »

+1 for the moderate dose of ibuprofren throughout the day, 400 mg every 6 hours works great. Vitamin I

http://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2 ... -find.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Champion
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Re: Altitude Sickness

Post by Champion »

Very nice trip report

It can happen to anyone!

Be Safe
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