Let me preface this by stating I am no expert in the field of "Altitude Sickness", have never personally suffered from it, nor do I know everything about it. I simply want to provide a location where you might have some valid resources to:
1) Better understand the physiology behind it
2) Understand the different degrees/syndromes of Altitude Sickness and their severity (Acute Mountain Sickness, High Altitude Pulmonary Edema, & High Altitude Cerebral Edema
3) Know the best ways to prevent it
4) Provide some current evidence based articles regarding the treatment of it.
One of the best resources I have come across online is www.Altitude.org.
This website provides as in-depth a description of what Altitude sickness is, it's pathophysiology, interactive charts showing altitude effects on oxygen carrying capacity etc. It essentially has it all. They also have created a "registry" for people that have suffered from a severe form of Altitude sickness known as "High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)". I would be surprised if this website does not answer or address most of your questions regarding this topic. Another good source is the CDC. They talk about in what situations a person should or should not consider using Acetazolamide as prevention.
I will defer from re-writing definitions, causes, etc of Altitude Sickness since the website does a great job at answering those.
Current recommendations for "PREVENTION" of altitude sickness are the following:
- Acclimatization: above 8,000ft, ascend no faster than you bodies ability to acclimate. Usually 24 hours for every 1,000ft above 8,000ft (some variation in consensus here).
- Once above 10,000 ft. move sleeping altitude to no more than 1,600ft in a day. Sleeping at high altitude produces the most hypoxemia; day trips to high altitude with return to low altitude are much less stressful on the body.
- Avoid vigorous/strenuous exercise at elevation until acclimated (roughly 48 hours). Even after acclimatization, go easy, giving your body time to recover.
- Don't smoke, drink alcohol or use medication such as tranquillisers and sleeping pills while you're at altitude, as they could make any symptoms of altitude sickness worse.
- Stay well hydrated.
- Consume a high calorie diet
- Only two evidence based medications effective for prevention of Altitude Sickness currently that I am aware of:
a. Acetazolamide - 125mg dose twice a day, started 24-48 hours prior to altitude exposure. This is the "go to prescription medication". Higher doses have no added benefit per research studies. Common side effects are tingling of the hands, toes and face, nausea, & drowsiness. If allergic to Penicillin or Sulfa drugs, this maybe contraindicated for your use.
A few supportive Articles:http://jtm.oxfordjournals.org/content/19/5/281http://www.bmj.com/content/328/7443/797
b. Ibuprofen - 600mg three times a day, started 6 hours prior to altitude exposure. Contraindicated if you have a history of stomach ulcers, GI bleed, liver or kidney failure among others. (Not as widely accepted as a preventative medication but support is growing).
A few supportive Articles:https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2...chers-find.html
- If you start to develop mild symptoms stay at current altitude or descend
- DESCEND, DESCEND, DESCEND - only truly effective prevention once symptoms present
Current recommendations for TREATMENT for altitude sickness are:
- DESCEND, DESCEND, DESCEND
Really nothing else needs to be said regarding treatment. Once you have true symptoms if you don't descend, much of the above including medications aren't going to have a big impact. You have to descend down the mountain.
As for herbal remedies ie. Gingko biloba - has had widely conflicting results and is not currently recommended. Anti-oxidants (Vit C, E ,& Alpha-lipoeic acid) and magnesium have not shown to be effective. Other remedies/treatments are out there but there is little to no valid literature to support it's use. That's not to say they are not effective. Some haven't been studied in small or large trials.
I have experience using both Acetazolamide and the Ibuprofen regimens. I personally did not experience any side effects but obviously some do. In the end, use what works for you. Nothing will work for everyone. Common sense and educating yourself is key. I would seek medical advice prior to taking any of the above as each of us have our own problems/issues. Self medicating can get us in trouble even when it comes to herbal remedies or over the counter medications. I would encourage you to look at the Altitude.org website. Some extremely valuable information there.