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  The Chatter Box : Travel
Altitude sickness? by Helen on 21 December 2003 3:31pm
I am assuming that this what Michael had when was barely able to breathe, walk, etc. at over 13k feet... scary....(read his latest message dated 12/19)
anyone ever deal with this? what do you do?(besides go down the mountain-- quickly..)
Re: Altitude sickness? by MatthewKrelle on 21 December 2003 4:42pm
Yep quite a nasty and dangerous thing to have. I came down with it bad at about 16,000 ft. It catches up with you really slowly. Without realising food starts to taste the same, your appetite goes and your mood changes. These are just mild symptoms which everyone can expect to have high up.

However, if further symptoms develope such as deep headaches, breathing problems, loss of coordination then its time to act. Edemas in the brain and lungs can start to form which if left alone can lead to coma and death. Anyway besides from descending to the last altitude you felt fine, it is possible for it to be treated with a drug called diamox and in more severe cases a session in a portable altitude chamber may also help (this simulates a rapid decent). In my case I went on the drugs and spent some time in a chamber.

Like many things in life prevention is always best. A slow accent will allow you body to acclimatise to the thinning air and most people will not experience problems. Hope that helps!
Re: Altitude sickness? by Helen on 22 December 2003 5:23pm
wow. Thanks... I'm glad you made it okay.
At what altitude does sickness become a risk?
judging from Michael's message, and your description of symptoms, he was in some danger...Thank goodness they took care of him.
Re: Altitude sickness? by Godfather on 23 December 2003 12:42am
I've been lucky enough only to get the usual mild symptoms on most trips really. Nothing much to worry about. Just the faint headaches and racing heart (even when resting). Some spots where i got the mild symptoms of racing heartbeat, mild headache and insomnia were on the Altiplanos of Bolivia, the Annapurna basecamp trek (the one Michael recently did), the road from Nepal to Tibet on the friendship highway, and on a high trek in Chitral in northwest Pakistan.

Just irritating little symptoms more than anything else. The coca leaves in the Andean countries help ease it a bit (local thing). At altitude, every step you take seems like you've got lead weights on your feet,and it seems absurd at the time. You feel like a 75 year old man, when you know you're not. But it's a warning from nature, to slow down,pace yourself,breath well,and rest between steps . Losing sleep is the most annoying symptom for me i would say. Especially on treks of several days. Nothing worse than waking up after 3 hours sleep, to slog another 7-8 hours all day. Yikes!. Oh, but it adds some spice.:)

There are many dangerous forms of soroche. Some are very dangerous and are more common in really high altitude mountaineers. But you'll know when the dangers signs show. Most people get hit with the mild symptoms, and descending for the night is usually enough to give a little relief from the symptoms. When you arrive in some countries, you must spend a week or so at altitude before leaping and bounding up higher elevations. Yet, some people get hit really bad at relatively low altitudes. It can strike even those who have been mountaineers for years. It's unpredictable indeed.
Re: Altitude sickness? by MykReeve on 23 December 2003 3:37am
Although I don't have as much experience of altitude sickness as Godfather, my last trip to Peru involved quite a few days at altitude. The mate de coca tea definitely did help, though I can't say I was overly struck on chewing the leaves like the natives do...

People definitely seem to vary enormously in the extent to which they're affected by altitude, and it doesn't seem as if there's any way of anticipating who will be most severly affected. Personally, the main symptom I experienced was an exceptionally dry and crusty nose, and a little insomnia. Once I'd acclimatised, I didn't find it so bad - and managed to spend on the dancefloor in a club in Puno, on the shore of Lake TIticaca (~4000m above sea level) without too much difficulty... well, apart from the usual stumbling block of an embarrassing inability to dance, of course.

The highest point on my trip was 4910m above sea level (~16000ft) in an Andean mountain pass, which felt pretty weird. Moving too rapidly resulted in you feeling like you'd had a rush of blood to the head... so you do have to move really slowly, like an old man to avoid getting a headache.

Most people I met were generally fine, and (at least, when we were back down at more sociable altitudes) able to laugh it off... but some people did suffer from really painful headaches.
Re: Altitude sickness? by Godfather on 28 December 2003 4:19pm
>The mate de coca tea definitely did help, though I can't say I was overly struck on chewing the leaves like the natives do...

Oh i was well away on that stuff.lol. Spent most of my time there with a big bulge in my cheek. If done correctly, then it's quite pleasant and a bit of a "pacifier" hehehe. There is certainly an art to it. The main thing to avoid, is actually "chewing" the leaves. Most people make that mistake and are put off for life.If you chew, then they break up and you get all the bitterness. The trick is to start off with 3 or 4 leaves. You dont chew them at all, but wait until they're soft. Slowly over time you keep adding 3 or 4 and build them up to about 70 or so while rolling it into a ball with your tongue as you add them.

Once they are soft enough, then you add the activator (the black sticky stuff, or the white lime) onto the ball with one of your fingers. After this stage, you only rarely "compress" the ball lightly with your teeth to squish it a little enough to release the ingredient. A gentle pressing with the jaws is as far as you should go (certainly early on). The activator does the rest of the work and it's absorbed through the gums. I found it fascinating, and in the museums it hit home how old the tradition was. There were pieces of pottery about 2000 years old with a man and a bulge in his cheek. Ancient practice, and shows that old habits die hard, indeed.heheh

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