Altitude sickness refers to a group of symptoms that can arise in a person from going at higher altitudes too quickly. It happens due to low levels of oxygen at high altitudes. It is also known by the name of mountain sickness. This condition usually occurs at altitudes of 8,000 feet (ft) or higher. People who live at high altitudes are adapted to low oxygen saturation, but persons who travel to higher altitudes than their body is used to can develop altitude sickness. Climbing, hiking, driving at higher altitudes too rapidly or climbing at too high altitudes poses a risk of it because the body doesn’t get enough time then to adjust to the decreased oxygen levels. Homeopathy for altitude sickness can help manage symptoms, with homeopathic remedy Coca being the first-aid medicine, popularly known as ‘the mountaineer’s remedy.’
Anyone can get it who hurry into ascending at high altitudes, without giving their body enough time to adjust to the changes in air pressure. The chances of it are increased if the climb is difficult and takes excessive energy compared to an easy climb needing less energy. Risk is increased in persons having a history of this complaint. The risk is lowered if a person ascends at high altitudes in a gradual manner. Mountain sickness can be acute or chronic. In acute type symptoms are felt shortly after ascending quickly at high altitude. While in chronic type the symptoms develop after a person remains at higher altitude of more than 8200 feet for an extended time. The chronic mountain sickness is also known as Monge’s disease.
The symptoms of this condition occur between 6 to 24 hours after reaching higher altitudes. The intensity of symptoms depends on various factors that include age of the person, weight of the person, general physical fitness levels, the speed at which a person climbed the higher altitude and how much time is spent by a person at the high altitude. A person is said to have altitude sickness if he gets a headache and at least one other attending symptoms of altitude sickness at a height of 8000 ft. Other than headache the symptoms of this condition when in mild condition includes dizziness, nausea, vomiting, fatigue (tiredness, weakness), sleeplessness (insomnia), loss of appetite, general malaise, feeling sleepy, increased heart rate and shortness of breath on doing exertion. The symptoms tend to get better in a day or two as the body adjusts itself to altitude change. But in severe cases serious symptoms may develop. These serious symptoms are severe headache, shortness of breath even at rest, chest tightness, skin discolouration, cough, coughing of blood, loss of coordination, unsteady gait means problem in walking, confusion and decreased consciousness.
Classification of Altitude Sickness
It is classified into three types:
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) :
It is the most common and the mildest form of altitude sickness. Its symptoms include dizziness, headache, nausea and muscle aches.
High – Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE):
This form occurs if AMS is not treated well in time and it persists. In this type fluid fills the brain leading to its swelling and hindering its normal functioning. This fluid leaks from blood vessels into the brain that occurs from low oxygen levels resulting in brain swelling. This type needs immediate treatment because it can cause death if not urgently treated. Its symptoms include intense drowsiness, confusion, disorientation, fever, trouble walking and hallucinations (a symptom in which a person sees or hears things not present actually in reality
High – Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)
In this type excessive fluid builds up in the lungs and hinders its normal function. This type is also life threatening and if not treated immediately can cause death. The symptoms of this type are difficulty breathing even at rest, blueness of skin or lips (cyanosis), persistent intense cough, chest tightness / congestion, rattling or gurgling noises in lungs when breathing, confusion and weakness.
Homeopathy for Altitude Sickness
There are some medicines in homeopathy that are beneficial for cases of altitude sickness. These can be considered in these cases of mild intensity. In cases where any of the symptoms are very severe /serious and are indicating HACE and HAPE it Is advisable to take immediate help from conventional treatment. Homeopathic medicines can help mild cases with symptoms including headache, exhaustion, dizziness, sleeplessness, palpitations, anxiety and mild difficult breathing. The first aid homeopathic medicine best fit for managing these symptoms is Coca also popularly known as “The mountaineer’s remedy’’.
This medicine is prepared from leaves of the plant Coca Erythroxylon that belongs to family linee. It is top listed medicine for cases of altitude sickness. It is the best homeopathic medicine for managing cases of mild to moderate intensity. The key features to use this medicine in these cases are headache, dizziness, sleeplessness, palpitations, anxiety, exhaustion and difficulty breathing. This medicine is helpful when any of these symptoms arise from ascending high altitudes. Its use is also recommended as a preventive for altitude sickness in persons having a history of this condition any time in the past.
Calcarea Carb is another well indicated homeopathic medicine for cases of altitude sickness. It is mainly indicated for vertigo (a symptom in which a person feels as if he is moving or the surrounding objects are moving but actually they are not) when climbing high altitudes or going up a hill. For using it the vertigo can be felt on suddenly turning the head. The vertigo is attended with a sensation of falling. Along with vertigo, headache nausea and vomiting can be present too.
Carbo Veg is the next valuable medicine for altitude sickness. One of the main actions of this medicine is centred around the complaints arising from lack of proper oxygenation of blood. In cases of mountain sickness it is beneficial for complaints of mild difficult breathing. This can be used only in mild cases and not severe ones. Persons needing it have quick, short breathing. This is attended with desire to take a deep breath. Breathing difficulty worsens from walking. They may desire to be fanned to get more air. Palpitation can be felt with the above symptoms. Another attending symptom that they may have is weakness and exhaustion.
It is a natural medicine prepared from the bark of the root of plant Gelsemium Sempervirens commonly known as yellow jasmine. This plant belongs to family loganiaceae. This medicine can help in managing the complaint of dizziness. Persons needing it feel Lightheadedness or vertigo. It worsens from sudden movement of head and also from walking. The head may feel heavy with it. Next it works well to manage excessive drowsiness or feeling sleepy. Lastly, it is an effective medicine for managing fatigue, tiredness, weakness.
This medicine is prepared from plant deadly nightshade. It belongs to family solanaceae. It is a beneficial medicine to manage headaches. Persons who require it feel throbbing, pulsating pain in the head usually in the temples (sides) of the head. Congestion, fullness, heat in the head accompanies it. They may feel better in pain from applying pressure on the head.
This medicine is well indicated to manage dizziness and vertigo with whirling sensation in the head. In cases needing it the vertigo is felt when turning the head or when rising from a seat or walking. Along with this a pressure sensation is also felt in the head.
It is prepared from a plant named Arnica Montana having the common name Leopard’s – bane or fallkraut. It belongs to the family composite. It is a very beneficial medicine for managing muscle aches. The main characteristic symptom for using it is sore bruised pains in the body. It feels as if the body is beaten. It helps to relieve the muscle pain and soreness very effectively.