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.
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.
Three Rules for High Altitude Travelers
- Learn the early symptoms of altitude illness and be willing to recognize when you have them.
- Never ascend to sleep at a higher altitude with any symptoms of altitude illness.
- 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.