Thursday, December 10, 2015

How about that altitude sickness?

Skiers and snowboarders are heading for the hills--and being felled by altitude sickness.

I had it once as a kid--in the Rockies. Bad, bad headache, nausea, dizziness,  Takes a day or two to go away.

Karen Schwartz, NYT, Dec 8, 2105, says many vacationers don't want to wait and lunge for the oxygen and other even less-proven remedies, such as oils, pills, and wristbands.

Actually this can be more than a vacation-killer--32 people have died in Colorado from the effects of high elevation. Last year, 1,350 people also sought ER care.

Not everyone gets it. In a Colorado survey, 22% of those staying at 7,000 to 9,000 feet succumbed. At 10,000 feet, that number rose to 42%. (NEJM, July 2001)

The obese and those over age 60 tend to be most affected. Being out of shape seems to not be a factor.

One woman said she felt as if her head were being split in half--she almost felt almost delirious.

A drug called Diamox (acetazolamide) has been proven to help (500-1000 mgs daily beginning 24 to 48 hours before ascent). But this can have bad side effects--it makes you breathe more and accelerates acclimatization, which can make you feel shaky.

Other remedies that have been tested, without solid evidence that they work, are ibuprofen, ginkgo biloba, and nitric oxide.

Yet, preparations of these can be purchased in ski towns and on the internet.

And of course, you have to beware of the scammier approaches--such as massages and oxygen-enriched structured water.

"High Altitude Body Oil" from ISUN Alive &Ageless Skincare, says it's based on textbook info on oils and herbs. Textbook info--OK. Forth bucks!

Also the pure oxygen often offered is really 40% oxygen.

Of course, you could rent an oxygen concentrator for $300 a week...

Or you could...

--Ascend gradually and stop at a lower altitude or go down lower to sleep.

--Avoid alcohol.

--Take it easy for the first 48 hours.

If you get worse instead of better over a day or two, go to the ER. Lady Gaga had to.

No comments: