Altitude headache, also known as mountain sickness, is a collection of symptoms that are brought about by ascending or walking to high altitudes too rapidly.

Altitude headache can be felt by any individual who goes to heights without giving the body time to acclimate to the adjustments in air pressure and oxygen levels. High altitude is characterized as 8,000 – 12,000 feet above sea level. Very high altitude is 12,000 – 18,000 feet, and heights over 18,000 feet are viewed as extremely high altitude.

The faster a move to high height, the more probably that altitude headache will ensue. It may also occur when climbs are progressively hard, contrasted to a slow and simple climb.

Age, sex and general well-being don’t appear to have any effect in bringing about altitude sickness. In any case, individuals with lung or heart disease might be advised to keep away from high elevations. Individuals who live at lower elevations and are not used to higher heights and individuals who have had altitude sickness  already appear to have a higher risk for altitude headache.


The usual signs and symptoms of altitude sickness include the following:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleep problems
  • A general loss of energy

These symptoms usually start around 12 to 24 hours of remaining at a high altitude. Symptoms may lessen afterwards as the person gets accustomed to the altitude.


When headache happens within 24 to 48 hours of evolving rise, altitude sickness ought to be considered. Most experienced climbers perceive the symptoms in individuals who are encountering mild to moderate altitude sickness.

In instances of serious altitude sickness, a physician will make the finding dependent on signs, symptoms and the circumstances. The physician will do a physical exam or take a chest X-ray to know if there is any fluid in the chest. In the most serious cases, a physician may request for a cranial MRI or CT scan to check for swelling of the brain.


It is essential to know the symptoms of altitude sickness with the goal that treatment can be begun early.

For all phases of altitude sickness the fundamental treatment is to go down to a lower height as fast and securely as possible. Over-the-counter drugs can relieve headaches. Different symptoms will disappear at a lower elevation.

The manifestations of moderate altitude sickness may get better in 24 hours at a height that is at 1,000 to 2,000 feet lower. Symptoms may resolve in three days.

Individuals who have severe altitude sickness must be taken to a lower height (no higher than 4,000 feet) right away. They should be seen by a physician at the earliest time. Hospital care might be required.

Swelling in the brain or cerebral edema could be treated with dexamethasone, a steroid.

Treatment for pulmonary edema may include oxygen, medicines, inhalers or respirators.

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