You may be all too familiar with high-altitude sickness and the dangers it poses in high-altitude trekking and mountaineering. So, have you heard of reverse altitude sickness?
There have been numerous reports of reverse altitude sickness. When people from higher elevations travel to lower altitudes, they feel fuzzy, dizzy, and have moderate headaches. They often have increased hunger and sleep for long periods.
Causes and Symptoms of Reverse Altitude Sickness
If you have been living at higher elevations for more than 6 months and have already adjusted to a higher altitude, you are more likely to have reverse altitude sickness. Reverse altitude sickness is caused by a quick fall to a lower altitude. Many people feel heaviness and moderate dizziness when traveling from a higher altitude to a lower elevation.
In reverse altitude sickness, you may experience slight headaches, shortness of breath, and a rapid heartbeat. Hypobaric hypoxia is the most common cause of reverse altitude sickness. Hypobaric hypoxia is a situation in which your body does not receive an adequate supply of oxygen from the air. A quick decline to lower altitudes contradicts the tissue function that sustained you at the higher elevations, causing symptoms of reverse altitude sickness.
Mild headaches, dizziness, and nausea are the first signs of reverse altitude sickness. Further altitude drops cause fatigue, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. Other symptoms include rattling and gurgling breathing sounds, strong foamy coughs, and grey or blue lips and fingernails.
Minor symptoms of reverse altitude sickness include:
Who is prone to reverse altitude sickness?
Reverse-altitude sickness does not affect everyone. Reverse-altitude symptoms and consequences differ from person to person. A person with a history of altitude sickness is more likely to get it quickly after a 2,500-meter drop in altitude.
People who consume coffee and alcohol regularly are more likely to experience reverse altitude sickness. Alcohol and coffee reduce the passage of oxygen from your tissues to your heart, increasing your chances of altitude sickness.
Risks of Reverse Altitude Sickness
Reverse altitude sickness, like high altitude sickness, is extremely harmful and, in severe cases, can be fatal. Blood pressure rises as a result of reverse altitude sickness in the absence of oxygen.
In severe cases, fast blood pressure causes leaking from the veins to the brain and lungs. This situation is known as edema, which is extremely dangerous and can result in death if not treated immediately.
How to Avoid Reverse Altitude Sickness
Allowing the body to adjust is the best method to avoid reverse altitude sickness. To avoid discomfort, you must control your descent. Overexertion and significant physical stress on your body amplify the symptoms of altitude sickness, so take it easy and take many pauses while you descend. Keep yourself moisturised as well. Drink 4 to 6 hours of water each day on average to restore the water lost by the body through sweat and heat. Avoid drinking, smoking, and caffeine while traveling.
You can contact your doctor and bring altitude sickness medicine with you. Acetazolamide and dexamethasone help prevent altitude sickness by keeping blood flow stable and assisting the respiratory system.