How can I trigger altitude sickness 1

Altitude sickness Indications Acute altitude sickness can occur with a rapid ascent to over 2500 meters (“too high, too fast”). The most common symptoms include headache, nausea, loss of appetite, insomnia, tiredness, fatigue, vomiting and dizziness. Pulmonary and cerebral edema are serious and possibly fatal complications at high altitude. For prevention, certain rules of conduct should be followed (slow ascent, taking breaks, acclimatization). Acetazolamide, dexamethasone and ginkgo, among others, are used for drug prevention. Painkillers, antiemetics, dexamethasone, acetazolamide and oxygen are used for treatment.

synonymous: mountain sickness, high mountain sickness, acute mountain sickness (AMS)


The symptoms of altitude sickness are non-specific and usually appear 6-10 hours after the ascent. But they can also occur after an hour:

Serious Symptoms:

  • to cough
  • Shortness of breath even at rest
  • Chest tightness
  • Blue discoloration of the skin
  • Coughing up blood (pulmonary edema)
  • Loss of consciousness, confusion (brain edema)

Complications: End stage of altitude sickness, especially at high altitude, possibly with fatal outcome: cerebral edema, swelling of the brain, loss of consciousness, pulmonary edema.


One of the most important factors is the lower oxygen supply (hypoxia) at high altitudes with low pressure. Altitude sickness usually only occurs from 2500 meters, but there are strong individual differences. From 2000 to 4000 meters it can be compensated by reactions of the organism. Above 4000 meters there can be considerable disturbances without acclimatization, from 7000 meters it can lead to death (decompensation).

Risk factors
  • Individual disposition
  • Low-lying residential area (<900 m above sea level)
  • effort
  • Younger people

The symptoms of altitude sickness are relatively unspecific. A variety of conditions and diseases can trigger similar complaints. Correct diagnosis is therefore not easy.


Non-drug prevention:

  • Acclimatization: When staying at an altitude, the body can get used to the conditions a little (e.g. increased formation of erythrocytes).
  • Slow ascent, take breaks
  • Drink a lot, do not consume alcohol
  • Avoid high altitudes if you are predisposed
  • Physical fitness has no influence

Drug prevention:

  • Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors: Acetazolamide (Diamox®) appears to have a preventive effect and is approved in Switzerland for this indication. The possible undesirable effects represent a problem.
  • Dexamethasone can also be taken prophylactically, but is used more therapeutically.
  • Herbal alternative: possibly ginkgo

The medication should be taken 1-5 days before the ascent, depending on the recommendation. Acetazolamide tolerance should be tested prior to the ascent.


Non-drug treatment
  • Do not hike or climb any further and quickly return to lower altitudes if you have severe problems. A descent of 500 to 1000 meters can eliminate all symptoms.
  • Portable hyperbaric chamber

Painkiller against headaches:

Antiemetics against nausea and vomiting:

Medical gases:


Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors:


Substances that restrict breathing, e.g. opioid antitussives and analgesics such as morphine and codeine, as well as benzodiazepines are contraindicated. Acetazolamide and not benzodiazepines should be taken for sleep disorders.

see also

Healthy hiking

  • Medicinal product information (CH)
  • Bailey D.M. Acute mountain sickness: the "poison of the pass". West J Med, 2000, 172 (6), 399-400 Pubmed
  • Clarke C. Acute mountain sickness: medical problems associated with acute and subacute exposure to hypobaric hypoxia. Postgrad Med J, 2006, 82 (973), 748-53 Pubmed
  • Hackett P.H., Roach R.C. High-altitude illness. NEJM, 2001, 345 (2), 107-114 Pubmed
  • Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia
  • Roach R.C., Hackett P.H. Frontiers of hypoxia research: acute mountain sickness. J Exp Biol, 2001, 204 (Pt 18), 3161-70 Pubmed

Conflicts of Interest: None / Independent. The author has no relationships with the manufacturers and is not involved in the sale of the products mentioned.

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This article was last changed on 11/10/2018.
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