Altitude sickness medicine

Jul 14th, 2014, 05:47 PM
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Altitude sickness medicine

I'd like some input on the need for (or not) altitude sickness medicine for 4 days in the Bernese Oberland area. We will be taking trips to the Top of the a World, and hiking a bit thru the area. The guide books reccomend taking aspirin, but I know that there is prescription medicine available as well.
soods is offline  
Jul 14th, 2014, 06:07 PM
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I too inquired about this very issue just last year as we went to Switzerland in September. Diamox is the drug prescribed for altitude sickness (which in me presents with bad headaches). If you decide to take it, start day before ascending the mtns. It was prescribed to me here in the States years ago for altitude sickness while skiing in CO. Only side effect was mild tingling in hands. The good news is I had no problems in Switzerland, and took nothing for it; we drank tons of water. Search 'altitude sickness' in Switzerland tag for other responses I received.
aliced is offline  
Jul 14th, 2014, 06:15 PM
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The medicines for altitude sickness have to be tailored to your medical condition. Ask your doctor, as there can be side effects. That said, the Bernese Oberland area is not high like the Andes, so you may be OK without powerful medications.
AJPeabody is offline  
Jul 14th, 2014, 06:53 PM
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Aliced-did you go up the Jungfrau and have no problems without medicine?

AJPeabody, I did ask one doctor and he said he was there with no problem, therefore he said he didn't think we'd need it. I was thinking that 13,000 was pretty darn least higher up than we've been so far. Did you go up to the top and not need it as well?
soods is offline  
Jul 14th, 2014, 07:05 PM
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soods - for what it's worth, I took no medication and had no problem on top of Jungfraujoch. Aspirin or acetaminophen is recommended to treat the most common symptom, headache. Dehydration can also make headache worse, be sure to stay well hydrated.

The most commonly use drug - the one aliced mentioned - is a sulfa agent, so if you have a sulfa sensitivity it is out. It can also make you more sensitive to sun so be extra careful about sunscreen especially at altitude. And it is a diuretic so you will pee more than usual.
Seamus is offline  
Jul 14th, 2014, 07:21 PM
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Thanks Seamus, I just read about the sulfa issue, so Diamox is definitely out for me! Tylenol and water it is! Thanks everyone
soods is offline  
Jul 14th, 2014, 07:24 PM
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You need to see someone who is capable of PRESCRIBING medication and who can evaluate your possible need for a medication based on information that we do not have access to.

Just because someone ELSE did or did not need medication has nothing to do with you and your needs.
Dukey1 is offline  
Jul 14th, 2014, 07:48 PM
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A definitive site on altitude sickness:

I've spent over a month above 14'000'. From what I witnessed and experienced the three biggest factors in avoiding AMS were proper acclimatization (ascend slowly, plus "climb high, sleep low"), staying hydrated, and moving slowly so you don't over exert. Slow down if you can't hold a conversation, for example.

13,000' is pretty darn high if you head there immediately without any intermediate stops, so I respectively disagree with the doctor who said no problem.

That said, most people do OK for a short visit if they don't sleep at that elevation. But it's unpredictable. Good luck.
Nelson is online now  
Jul 14th, 2014, 09:27 PM
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I advocate taking meclizine also known as antivert or Bonine.

I don't think the Jungfraujoch will be a problem because the train goes up slowly.

The Schilthorn can be a problem because the gondola goes up too fast and the Piz Gloria rotates.

Pepper_von_snoot is online now  
Jul 15th, 2014, 06:28 AM
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Sood, yes went up Jungfrau & Schilthorn, no problems. Of course you will discuss w your doctor preexisting conditions, but you're taking the meds for less than a week, not for your life. Hydration is key, and of course who would ascend Alps or anywhere else for that matter without sunscreen. While we slept down in Interlaken, we also slept at base level at Vail/Breckinridge too and I was affected. (Too many hot toddies down in the lodge probably -- guilty as charged!)
aliced is offline  
Jul 15th, 2014, 07:20 AM
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Interlaken is at 1,500ft; Vail at 8,000ft. Not just the toddies

Most hiking in the Oberland can be done at quite moderate levels of 3,000 to 7,000 ft. Usually AMS should not kick in at those levels.
The cable cars will take you obviously to much higher elevations, but there are not that many hiking opportunities up there (aside from walking around a little near the peaks).

As the tree line is much lower in the European Alps than, for example, in the Colorado Rockies, anything above 7,000 to 8,000 ft is usually the domain of mountain climbers (and not hikers) in our Alps anyway.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Jul 15th, 2014, 02:11 PM
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This is very individual. We have ascend lower mountains - 7 or 8K feet and not had a problem but at the top of the Jungfraujoch we both felt a little light headed getting off the train. We went and had a snack and a drink (not booze) and felt better - so stayed about 3 hours touring around.

However, an older couple that came up in our car of the train were VERY uncomfortable - dizzy, nauseous and couldn't breathe - and went right back down on the next train.

I think it's partly lung capacity, partly health (older less, lung capacity esp if ever smoked or have asthma or similar) and partly individual tolerance. I wouldn't take a drug unless you now you need it.

(A friend of mine spent the night at Machu Picchu and had a blinding headache in the morning and awful dreams/poor sleep - but that's really high. Also dreamed she ate her pillow - but don't know what that mean.)
nytraveler is offline  
Jul 15th, 2014, 02:56 PM
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In fact, AMS is induced by lack of oxygen in the air and consequently the arteries and vessels will become narrower, so to speak. If you feel a mild headache and an increasing pulse while not being active, you get AMS. Simply feeling exhausted in thinner air without the headache and higher pulse is normal and not AMS.

Age, health, smoking/non-smoking, asthma are non issues - lack of adaption to height is. Being fit and healthy does not help (only if you actually climbed up and had less problems with fatigue). Even a super athlete in his 20s can get AMS easily while his grandma feels just a minor headache or nothing.
You cannot willingly tell your lungs to get more oxygen out of the thinner air, as you have not enough red blood vessels to transport it.

But adaption is a matter of days or rather weeks (your body needs to be triggered to produce more red blood vessels, that does not happen in hours), not whether you climbed straight up, took the slow cogwheel train or a fast cable car.

There is only one remedy: Take a good dose of Ibuprofen and go down as immediately and as low as possible. Take the very next cable car down, as you will not "acclimatize". Period.
You can only acclimatize on elevations which are higher than where you started but lower than where you got AMS.

Drugs against AMS that widen the blood vessels are a remedy for serious mountain climbers that need or want to complete a tour. Not for the occasional tourist.
Cowboy1968 is offline  

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