Altitude illness is a condition which occurs in many travelers making rapid ascents to high altitudes. It is commonly referred to as acute mountain sickness (AMS). It most often occurs at altitudes of 3,000 meters (approximately 10,000 feet) or more. In some individuals, it has been reported as low as 2,500 meters (8,000 feet).
We suspect that altitude illness is caused by the body's reaction to lower levels of oxygen found at high altitudes. The disease may occur several hours to days after ascending to high altitudes. Symptoms range from mild to severe.
Classic, high risk areas of the world for altitude illness include any mountain range over 10,000 feet, such as the Alps, Andes, or Himalayas. In addition, travelers to areas of North American, East Africa, and the polar regions are at risk.
Altitude illness can range from mild to severe.
The last group of symptoms may represent fluid accumulation in the brain (high altitude cerebral edema) or lungs (high altitude pulmonary edema). In these severe cases, the disease can be fatal if not treated rapidly and requires descent to lower altitudes. Luckily, in most travelers, altitude illness is mild and does not become severe.
Asthma does not increase the risk of altitude illness. In fact, people with asthma often do well at altitude since there is less pollution in the air.
The best prevention is slow ascent. In general, start with a 2-4 stay at an altitude of 8,000-10,000 feet. This should be followed by a slow ascent of altitudes of no more than 1,000 feet (300 meters) per day about 10,000 feet. Upon arrival at altitude, you should avoid strenuous activity until you acclimate.
Maintain fluid intake to avoid dehydration and follow the maxim, "climb high and sleep low." Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and sedatives (including narcotics).
The active ingredient in coca leaves is a mild stimulant that may help you stay alert and hydrated. This may make you feel better at altitude. Unfortunately, it does not prevent altitude illness.
It is unknown whether these two medications are effective in preventing altitude sickness, and therefore, their use is not recommended.
Physical conditioning does not protect against altitude illness. Susceptibility is based on your body's response to altitude and is not reflective of aerobic capacity.
If slow ascent is not possible or if you have a history of recurrent altitude illness, preventive medications may be needed. An example is Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,340 feet), which is often climbed in less than seven days.
The drug of choice to prevent altitude illness is acetazolamide. Take this medication 24 hours before ascent above 10,000 feet through 24-48 hours after you reach peak altitude. Avoid this medication if you have a history of sulfa antibiotic allergy, liver or kidney disease, or severe lung disease. Acetazolamide may cause tingling of the lips, fingers and toes, frequent urination, and a metallic taste with carbonated beverages.
If you cannot take acetazolamide, dexamethasone can be used. If you've had adverse reactions to steroids or have diabetes, this drug may not be safe for you. Dexamethasone can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, abdominal pain, and can suppress your immune function if used over a long period of time.
If symptoms of acute mountain sickness develop, you should stop your ascent, rest and get adequate fluids and calories. If altitude illness symptoms worsen, rapid descent to lower altitudes should begin as soon as possible. You should also see a medical professional.
Oxygen, use of hyperbaric chambers and medications may be needed.
Just as regular maintenance is health insurance for your car, it is also health insurance for your body. Maintaining your health now will prevent you from needing major "repairs" later. Making healthy choices now will save you a lot of trouble in the future.
ACL stands for anterior cruciate ligament. It is one of the main ligaments of the knee, and prevents the shin bone from sliding out in front of the thigh bone.
An injury to the ACL happens when the ligament is over-stretched or torn. A tear may be partial or complete. These injuries can occur if you:
The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare or the ACA, is a law intended to reform the health care system and make health insurance more affordable. The law has gone into effect in stages. For example, a provision that requires insurance to fully cover preventive services (like cancer screenings) was implemented in 2010, while the part of the law that stops insurance companies from denying people health insurance because of pre-existing conditions takes effect in 2014.
Say you've already got health insurance. How does Affordable Care Act affect you? Well, there are a couple of ways:
If you already have health insurance, you don't need to do anything new or different, unless your insurance company says so. Be sure to read about the preventive services that are now fully covered by your plan, regardless of whether you have a deductible, co-insurance or co-pays.
If you buy the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) through the University of Washington, you should expect to find very little changed. However, SHIP is subject to the same requirements as other health insurance policies, and therefore now fully covers preventive services like birth control and immunizations. You can read about your benefits under SHIP here.
Please note that SHIP will no longer be offered starting Fall Quarter of 2015. Click here for more information.
Starting January 1, 2014, the Affordable Care Act will require everyone to purchase a health insurance plan, just like the government requires people who own a car to buy car insurance. Fortunately, if you're a typical college student without much income, there are subsidies available to lower the cost of private insurance. If you are low-income, you might be eligible for public insurance, also known as Medicaid, for which you would not need to pay.
Please note that under Medicaid (aka Washington Apple Health), mental health services can only be provided by one of the Regional Support Networks (RSNs). Medicaid does not cover these services at Hall Health Center.
In order to obtain coverage for services received at Hall Health Center and other parts of UW Medicine, you must have an insurance plan through one of the following companies:
If you are an uninsured resident of Washington State, you may have two options:
Curious as to how much you might be looking at paying for your health insurance? Here's a special calculator that estimates your monthly payment for health insurance (though keep in mind that you might be eligible for Medicaid if you earn less than 138% of the Federal Poverty Level).
Depending on where you're from, your home state may or may not have its own health insurance exchange (a website set up to facilitate finding and purchasing a health insurance plan). You can use the federal government's Health Insurance Marketplace to get routed to your state's exchange. If your state does not operate an exchange, you can use the federal government's version to buy your plan.
Similarly, your state may not have opted to expand Medicaid eligibility. Read more here about the Medicaid expansion.
There are other elements of the Affordable Care Act that may affect you:
Check out this cartoon-style infographic on what the Affordable Care Act means for young people.
The federal government's HealthCare.gov website offers lots of resources to help you make sense of the Affordable Care Act.
Washington State's Health Plan Finder is where you'll purchase health insurance if you need to buy an individual (i.e., not employer- or parent-sponsored) plan and are a Washington resident.
If you're not a Washington State resident, the federal government's Health Insurance Marketplace can help you purchase a plan.
Authored by: Hall Health Center Health Promotion staff
Reviewed by: Hall Health Center Administration staff, January 2014
An estimated one in ten U.S. adults suffers from depression. Many people have their first experiences with depression while they're in college. This article will help answer the following questions:
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Antibiotics are medications that destroy bacteria or slow down their growth. You might wonder about why your medical provider prescribes antibiotics for some conditions, but not for others.
If you are diagnosed with a bacterial infection, your provider may write you a prescription for antibiotics. Bacteria are microscopic organisms that can sometimes cause the following infections:
Hall Health Center has a number of different clinics, each of which is staffed by a variety of medical providers. These providers, also known as clinicians, have different types of medical degrees.
Not sure whether to use ice or heat after an injury? Use these guidelines to help you decide.
Possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is legal in Washington State for those over the age of 21. However, you may not smoke pot anywhere on the University of Washington campus.