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What are the symptoms of altitude sickness?

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Quick Answer

Altitude sickness symptoms include headache, dizziness, nausea and shortness of breath that worsen at night, according to the NHS Choices. Severe altitude sickness symptoms include a persistent cough that produces pink or white foamy liquid, irrational behavior, double vision, convulsions and confusion.

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Full Answer

A person with mild altitude sickness should not travel any higher up for 24 to 48 hours, states NHS Choices. During this time, the patient should not exercise, smoke or drink alcohol. Instead, the patient should rest and drink plenty of fluids. If traveling with other people, the patient should alert them of his condition so that they can be alert for signs of a worsening condition. If the symptoms do not go away after 48 hours, the patient should descend as soon as possible and seek medical treatment. Severe altitude sickness can develop into life-threatening cerebral edema or pulmonary edema.

Painkillers can provide relief from the headaches that accompany mild altitude sickness, states NHS Choices. Anti-nausea medication can help steady the stomach. Acetazolamide is a medication that corrects the chemical imbalance caused by altitude sickness, theoretically lessening the symptoms or preventing them from occurring; however, acetazolamide is may cause side effects that include numbness and tingling in the face, fingers and toes. Dexamethasone and nifedipine are medications that treat cerebral and pulmonary edema respectively.

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