Important facts about altitude sickness:
1. Anyone can get it, even the most fit athletes.
2. It’s completely preventable by ascending slowly and staying hydrated, eating well, and resting.
3. Descent is the most effective treatment.
Altitude sickness happens because there is less oxygen in the air that is breathed at high altitudes. Two things are certain to make altitude sickness very likely — ascending faster than 1,500 feet per day and exercising vigorously.
There are three forms of altitude sickness:
1. Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS).
2. High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE).
3. High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE).
AMS— The most prominent symptom is usually headache, and most people also experience nausea and vomiting, lethargy, dizziness, and poor sleep. Symptoms are similar to a really bad hangover. This can happen to anyone who travels to over 8,000 feet elevation. The symptoms usually don’t become noticeable until at altitude for a few hours. The higher the altitude one reaches and the faster the rate of ascent, the more likely someone is to get acute mountain sickness.
HAPE— A buildup of fluid in the lungs that prevents the air spaces from filling with fresh air with each breath. The sufferer becomes progressively more short of oxygen, which in turn worsens the buildup of fluid in the lungs. HAPE usually develops after two or three days at altitudes above 8,000 feet and can be fatal within hours. Most will also have symptoms of AMS and possibly a cough. Symptoms will continue to progress if ignored.
HACE— A buildup of fluid on the brain. It causes confusion, clumsiness, and stumbling. The first signs may be uncharacteristic behavior such as laziness, excessive emotion, or violence. Drowsiness and loss of consciousness occur shortly before death. HACE can also occur in people with HAPE and vice versa.
1. If you feel unwell, you have altitude sickness until proven otherwise.
2. Do not ascend any farther if you have symptoms of altitude sickness.
3. If you are getting worse then descend immediately.
Here are the incidents for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks that rangers responded to last week:
SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK
July 12— A 78-year-old male from Jalisco, Mexico, was reported to be unresponsive with CPR in progress on a hillside below a river-access trail adjacent to the Sequoia National Park entrance sign. Rangers responded and provided EMS care until a doctor at Community Regional Medical Center pronounced the subject deceased. Tulare County Fire Department provided technical rescue resources. The body was transferred to the Tulare County Coroner’s Office. The incident is under investigation.
July 13— A 30-year-old female from Salt Lake City, Utah, rolled her vehicle at the intersection of Generals Highway and Cammerer Way. While the woman was uninjured, she was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.
July 14— A ranger responded to a cardiac call at the Buckeye Flat Campground. An ambulance was dispatched to the scene. Upon arrival, bystanders reported the patient was suffering from a seizure. The patient was responsive upon the ranger’s arrival. An ambulance arrived, and the patient refused transport.
July 13— Helicopter 552 and park search-and-rescue personnel responded to the east side of Mount Whitney to assist Inyo County with an incident. A person fell 60 to 100 feet while descending a climb and suffered a fractured leg. A short-haul rescue was conducted to evacuate the patient. The patient was transported to Southern Inyo Hospital in Lone Pine.
July 16— A 15-year-old male in the Rock Creek area was experiencing symptoms of high-altitude pulmonary edema. He was evacuated to Southern Inyo Hospital in Lone Pine. The patient’s condition improved upon reaching a lower elevation.
KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARK
July 15— Rangers responded to a 52-year-old female complaining of back pain and nausea. Patient was transported to Reedley Hospital by ambulance for a variety of medical complaints.
July 16— Rangers stopped a truck with passengers riding in the bed. The driver was found to be under the influence of alcohol and had a suspended license for driving under the influence of alcohol.