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altitude_illness.doc - Altitude Illness Altitude illness is...

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Altitude Illness Altitude illness is the result of reaching a high altitude before the body has a chance to adjust to lower levels of oxygen. Initial symptoms include headache, nausea, and fatigue. If ignored, altitude illness can be fatal. Descending always cures altitude illness. It can also be treated with drugs or with a hyperbaric chamber, if descent is not possible. At higher elevations the body must adjust, or acclimatize to an environment where less oxygen is available with each breath. When travelers move up to higher altitudes faster than this adjustment can take place, altitude illness can strike. There are two major forms: one that involves the brain (high altitude cerebral edema, or HACE), and one that involves the lungs (high altitude pulmonary edema, or HAPE). HACE, the more common form, usually comes on slowly, with headache, nausea, and fatigue. If ignored, symptoms can progress to unconsciousness and even death. In HAPE, the lungs begin to fill up with fluid, causing increasing fatigue and shortness of breath while exercising and, eventually, breathlessness during rest. If the person does not descend, the illness can be fatal. Descending to a lower altitude always cures altitude illness, often rapidly. Travelers to destinations above 6,000 to 8,000 feet (1,800 to 2,500 meters) should be
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