Altitude Illness

Douglas J. Bosin, DO, Phillip R. Hendley, MD and William S. Ellis, DO Reviewed 06/2018
 


BASICS

DESCRIPTION

  • A spectrum of medical problems ranging from mild discomfort to fatal illness that occur on ascent to higher altitudes as a direct result of inadequate acclimatization

  • Categories of al...

DIAGNOSIS

HISTORY

  • AMS, mild to moderate symptoms

    • Headache, plus at least one of:

      • Anorexia

      • Nausea or vomiting

      • Dizziness or light-headedness

      • Insomnia

  • AMS, severe symptoms

    • Increased headache

    • Irritability

    • Mar...

TREATMENT

GENERAL MEASURES

  • Individuals without previous altitude exposure should adhere to acclimatization guidelines.

  • Early recognition is important.

  • Stop ascent, acclimatize at the same altitude, and/o...

ONGOING CARE

FOLLOW UP RECOMMENDATIONS

Patient Monitoring

  • For mild cases, no follow-up is needed.

  • For more severe cases, follow until symptoms subside.

PATIENT EDUCATION

Counsel patients about the risks of...

REFERENCES

1 Davis C, Hackett P. Advances in the prevention and treatment of high altitude illness. Emerg Med Clin North Am.  2017;35(2):241–260.  [View Abstract]
2 Bärtsch P, Swenson ER. Clini...

ADDITIONAL READING

  • Imray C, Booth A, Wright A, et al. Acute altitude illnesses. BMJ.  2011;343:d4943.  [View Abstract]

  • Luks AM, McIntosh SE, Grissom CK, et al. Wilderness Medical Society practice...

CODES

ICD10

  • T70.20XA Unspecified effects of high altitude, initial encounter

  • T70.20XD Unspecified effects of high altitude, subsequent encounter

  • T70.20XS Unspecified effects of high altitude, sequela

  • T70....

CLINICAL PEARLS

  • Slow ascent and timely descent are important in the prevention and treatment of high-altitude illnesses.

  • Lack of symptom resolution with appropriate descent suggests an alternative diag...

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