The group of disorders is characterized by:
> Headache in 96% of cases .
> Insomnia in 70% of cases.
> Loss of appetite in 38% of cases.
> Nausea in 35% of cases.
> Difficulty breathing, dry cough, and vertigo are also frequent.
This poor adaptation can in the same way translate into localized edemas in the eyes, face, hands, and ankles. Some affected people also produce less urine (oliguria). Recognizing this problem early and making a early diagnosis avoids grave complications. As soon as some simple symptoms are recognized, one can know how much they have been affected by the altitude and what action to take.
First, verify if you suffer from any of the symptoms, and then use the following table to know how much you have been effected by Acute Altitude sickness.
Altitude sickness is a complex syndrome, described in the Andean plateaus as “The sickness of the plateaus” by José de Acosta in 1590. Over 100 years ago Paul Bert demonstrated the importance of hypoxia in its beginning stages.
As you ascend, the air becomes scarce and the global barometric pressure, as well as the partial pressure, of oxygen and water vapor, diminish. For this reason, the hypobaria associated with hypoxia and dryness appear.
The climb to the mountain heights unleashes a cascade of biophysical actions:
There is a progressive cooling of 1 degree Celsius for every 200 meters climbed, which diminishes the protective effects of the atmosphere, which increases the intensity of solar radiation during the day, while the lower levels of irradiation cause the nights to be more cold, resulting in the increase in intensity of the atmospheric phenomenons.
In the mountain heights, because of hypobaria, it is common for the nasal sinuses to drain, characterized by the uncomfortable obstruction of the nostrils. This situation obliges us to breathe through the mouth, which in turn increases the sensation of shortness of breath, which is complicated by the increased feeling of thirst, a product of the drying of the upper respiratory mucose membranes. On the other hand, because of the swelling of the bases in the digestive tube (aerogastria and aerocolia), dyspepsia and loss of appetite are added to the discomfort.
The dryness causes intense thirst and difficulty in swallowing.
The skin is also affected as it loses its elasticity and is made more sensitive to scratches, sunburn and radiation, and cold. There is a progressive cooling of 1 degree Celsius for every 200 meters climbed, which diminishes the protective effects of the atmosphere, which increases the intensity of solar radiation during the day, while the lower levels of irradiation cause the nights to be colder, resulting ina deepening in intensity of the atmospheric phenomenona.
The most notable symptoms of altitude sickness are created by hypoxia. The organism reacts reflexively, activating the central nervous system and increasing the consumption of energy. Shortness of breath and increased heart rate appear, which have their physiological limit; in the heart, this limit is discovered to be around the frequency of the equivalent of 200 below the age in years, because above this value the efficiency of pumping is lost. Even more complex and interesting is the result ofshortness of breath; in the beginning it allows for the increased amount of air to arrive to the lung alveoli, which assures the correct oxygenation of the blood, but as the frequency of breathing increases, it produces hyperventilation and a depletion of CO2 (Carbon Dioxide). In this way, the ambient hypoxia (due to lack of oxygen in the air) tries to be compensated by an alveolar hypocapnia (in the lungs). On the other hand, the lowering of partial pressure of carbon dioxide deprives the respiratory system of the physiological stimulus, with the final result being the necessity of voluntary respiration, even more fatiguing than the habitual reflexive breathing, which aggravates the prevailing feeling of shortness of breath; on top of that, the difficulty of maintaining voluntary respiration produces a strange form of insomnia. The climber wakes up various times while sleeping due to dizzy spells created by momentary lack of respiration. In these conditions, the prescription of tranquilizers doesn’t have any effect on the actual causes of insomnia and, on the contrary, can convert these night-time labored breathing spells to a grave crisis of apnea.