Altitude sickness, or Acute Mountain Sickness

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To begin I would like to talk about Altitude sickness, or Acute Mountain Sickness. I will define altitude sickness, talk about the symptoms, how to prevent altitude sickness, and how to treat it. I will then talk about what untreated altitude sickness can lead to. Altitude sickness is an illness you can get from ascending too high above sea level too quickly without acclimatizing to the decrease in oxygen levels. Altitude sickness, also called acute mountain sickness, is caused by exposure to low partial pressure of oxygen at high altitude. At high altitude atmospheric pressure is lower than at sea level. Because of the lower pressure the air expands as it rises which causes it to cool, thus high altitude air is cold. Normally the human body can adapt to high altitude by breathing faster, having a higher heart rate, and adjusting blood chemistry. However above 8,000 meters (26,000 feet) altitude acclimatization becomes almost impossible. There are two categories of Altitude Sickness; Mild to Moderate, and Severe. Some of the Symptoms of mild to moderate altitude sickness may include: • Difficulty sleeping • Dizziness or light-headedness • Fatigue • Headache • Loss of appetite • Nausea or vomiting • Rapid pulse (heart rate) • Shortness of breath with exertion Symptoms that may occur with more severe acute mountain sickness include: • Blue color to the skin (cyanosis) • Chest tightness or congestion • Confusion • Cough • Coughing up blood • Decreased consciousness or withdrawal from social interaction • Gray or pale complexion • Cannot walk in a straight line, or walk at all • Shortness of breath at rest There are also some risk factors that make you more susceptible to altitude sickness. Some of these risk factors are: • If y... ... middle of paper ... ... as the heart, major blood vessels, and airways) toward the other side of the chest. The shift can cause the other lung to become compressed, and can affect the flow of blood returning to the heart. This situation can lead to low blood pressure, shock, and death. Symptoms of a tension pneumothorax • Sudden chest pain • Shortness of breath • Chest tightness • Easy fatigue • Bluish color of the skin due to lack of oxygen • Rapid heart rate • Low blood pressure • Decreased mental alertness • Decreased consciousness • Rapid breathing • Bulging (distended) veins in the neck Tension Pneumothorax requires immediate attention. A needle or chest tube needs to be inserted into the chest cavity to release the pressure as soon as possible. If an evacuation is going to take a long period of time you may have to do this procedure yourself. That is not recommended though.
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