Acute mountain sickness

Acute mountain sickness

Fact Checked

Acute mountain sickness is likely to occur at heights of 8,000 feet above sea level. Generally, in most cases, the condition is mild and quickly heal. In rare instances, it can be severe and result to complications with the brain or lungs.

Furthermore, areas with higher altitudes have diminished levels of oxygen and air pressure. When travelling by plane, skiing or hiking up a mountain, the body does not have enough time to adjust.

What are the signs?

Generally, the indications of acute mountain sickness manifest in hours of moving to an area with high altitude. Furthermore, the signs vary depending on the seriousness of the condition.


For a mild case, the following are present:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
    Acute mountain sickness
    The indications of acute mountain sickness manifest in hours of moving to an area with high altitude.
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle pain
  • Irritability
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Appetite loss
  • Rapid heart rate
  • In addition, swollen hands, feet and face
  • Lastly, shortness of breath during exertion occurs


Generally, in severe cases, the symptoms can involve the lungs, heart, muscles and nervous system. Consequently, some of these symptoms include:

  • At first, chest congestion occurs
  • Coughing
  • Inability to walk
  • Poor balance
  • Pale complexion or discolored skin
  • Lastly, social withdrawal

Management of acute mountain sickness

Generally, the treatment for acute mountain sickness is based on its seriousness. Complications can be avoided by moving down to an area with lower altitude.

Furthermore, hospitalization is needed if there is brain swelling or fluid in the lungs. Oxygen is given if there are breathing issues.


Some of the drugs given include:

  • Blood pressure drugs
  • Acetazolamide
  • Lung inhalers
  • Dexamethasone
  • Aspirin

Other treatment options are used for mild cases such as:

  • Moving down to an area with low altitude
  • Limit the activity level
  • In addition, increasing the intake of water
  • Lastly, adequate rest before moving to an area with higher altitude.

More Information / Disclaimer

The information posted on this page on acute mountain sickness is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize the indications by taking a standard first aid course with Victoria First Aid.


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