The technical term for altitude sickness.

If you ascend to a higher altitude faster than your body can compensate, you may suffer from AMS. Your lungs do not function as well, due to the lower concentration of oxygen in the air, and the thinner overall density and pressure of the ambient air. This causes headache, nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness, drowsiness, and fatigue.

If left untreated (you keep ascending, or fail to descend) it can develop into pulmonary edema (HAPE) or cerebral edema, which are very serious and life-threatening.

The cure is to survive long enough to acclimate to the altitude or sit in a Gamow Bag for a while. There are other things you can do to help avoid it, though. Drink plenty of water. Stay away from caffeine and alcohol. Your doctor may give you a prescription for Diamox. People who climb Everest and K2 often bring liquid oxygen bottles with them.

The treatments do not match the cure, however. If you begin to feel symptoms, get to a lower altitude.

Okay, sure, I'll join the Search and Rescue team. Sounds like a good cause, and it should be exciting. Okay, I've got all my stuff--what do I do now? A field test? Hey, no problem, I'm in pretty damn good shape, considering. And there are all these tiny stick-girls I could probably use as freeweights--yeah, this won't be a problem. How long have I been in Santa Fe? Oh; I'm a Freshman, so only about a week-and-a-half. Where did I live before? Oh, Michigan; I've always lived in Michigan. Sea level? Yeah, actually I think my hometown was like 600 feet above sea level. Yeah, I know Santa Fe is at like 5,500. The mountain? Oh, that's eleven thousand on top of the original five? Wow. Hey, I can hack it.

Tired? No--puff--I'm not--huff--tired. Just--huff, huff--getting started, aren't we? Right. Hufff.

dizzy? do i look dizzy? oh. no, i'm fine. keep-gasp-going.

three hours later

Hey? Hey, how did I get down here? I was almost there--no, I wasn't sick, I was just a little tired, that's all. What? WHO did I cuss out? When? I don't remember--throwing up? No WAY! No way, no how--I'm in much better shape than those...oh. They've been here a while? That can't make much of a difference....oh, hey, I'm sorry the three of you had to abandon your test to help me down off the mountain...

Altitude Sickness: A good way to put big egos in their places. Especially mine.
What Puredoxyk says is true: a person's conditioning has little to do with whether they get altitude sickness or not. In my experience (three summers at Philmont, asst lower 48 peaks), the brawny guys actually come out worse because of a "tough-it out" ethic, which leads to more altitude->worse symptoms->more distance to retreat.

Decidedly unbrawny, my unscientific pre-trek plans involve smoking, which gets the body making additional oxygen carrying red blood cells.

As this process worsens, you have leakage of water from cells (normally atmospheric pressure keeps tensions in balance). This leads to fluid in the lungs and swelling of the brain. It is then time to break out the diuretics, steroids, and Gamow bag.

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