What is Altitude Sickness?
Altitude sickness (also called Acute Mountain Sickness or AMS) is an illness that can affect travelers at high altitude, typically above 8,000 feet. Ascending quickly increases the likelihood of experiencing AMS symptoms. Risk for acute mountain sickness is higher if:
- You live at or near sea level, traveling to high altitude locations
- You have had the illness before
- You have a chronic respiratory illness
- You are traveling by plane
Causes, Symptoms and Prevention
At sea level, the air around us is literally compressed because of the weight of the air above it. This makes it dense with oxygen molecules to breathe. As we ascend, the air is less compressed or “thinner,” and the oxygen molecules are more diluted, therefore fewer are inhaled with each breath.
There are many symptoms of altitude sickness, with varying degrees of severity. The most common are:
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