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Diamox - High Altitude Travel

Diamox - High Altitude Travel

Diamox (Acetazolamide) is used for the prevention or lessening of symptoms related to mountain sickness in climbers attempting rapid ascent and in those experiencing mountain sickness despite gradual ascent.

Mountain sickness

The most common symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) are headache, GI symptoms (nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite), dizziness, fatigue and sleeping difficulties. The severity of the symptoms can vary depending on speed of ascent, the altitude attained (especially sleeping altitude), strenuous activity at or reaching high altitude, time spent at high altitude and previous history of AMS. AMS can progress to the more serious conditions of High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) or High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE). If you experience confusion, disorientation, lethargy or irrational behavior, (symptoms of HACE) or breathlessness, persistent cough, or frothy sputum (symptoms of HAPE), you should descend to a lower altitude and get medical attention immediately. HAPE and HACE are life threatening conditions that can progress to death in as little as 12 hours. If you are planning to climb to an altitude over 12,000 ft. you should learn more about high altitude survival than we can provide in this pamphlet. Gradual ascent to high altitudes (above 8,000 ft.) is the best and safest way to avoid acute mountain sickness. If gradual ascent and/or Diamox is used, this does not eliminate the need to descend if severe forms of high altitude sickness, HAPE or HACE should occur. Other strategies to avoid AMS are; eat a high carbohydrate diet, reduce activity until you acclimatize, ascend gradually, and take a prophylactic drug, such as Diamox.

3 Rules for High Altitude Travelers:

1. Learn the early symptoms of altitude illness and be willing to recognize when you have them.

2. Never ascend to sleep at a higher altitude with any symptoms of altitude illness.

3. Descend if your symptoms are getting worse while resting at the same altitude.


  • You should NOT take Diamox if you are allergic to acetazolamide or other sulfa drugs.
  • Do not take Diamox if you have kidney disease, liver disease or severe lung disease (COPD, CHF,Asthma, etc.).
  • Do not take this medication if you are taking high dose aspirin therapy or have sodium orpotassium disturbances.
  • Discuss the use of Diamox with your doctor if you have glaucoma or diabetes.

Patient information

Allergic reactions to Diamox can occur such as rash, fever and wheezing. If these symptoms occur, discontinue the medication and contact your doctor immediately. This medicine is also used as a diuretic and will increase the amount of urine produced. This is a normal side effect and does not mean that you should discontinue the medicine.

Tingling or feeling of being "asleep" of fingers, toes or around the mouth (paresthesia) is common and not a reason to discontinue the medication.

High altitude travel itself maybe hazardous for those with lung disease.

Many travelers report that carbonated beverages taste flat while they take Diamox.

Adverse reactions

This medicine has been found to cause a number of side effects such as: headache, fatigue, allergic reactions, nausea, vomiting, blood cell changes, high or low blood sugar, numbness and tingling of the extremities, urinary problems such as crystals in the urine. If you experience these symptoms, contact a doctor and discontinue the medicine. Dose Take one 125 mg tablet twice a day. Begin this medicine 24 hours before arriving at high altitude and continue for 48 hours while at high altitude. You may continue taking Diamox up to 48 hours longer if your symptoms indicate the need for additional pills.