Rapid travel to high altitudes can create problems for those who are not acclimatized. In fact, approximately 30% of sea level residents exposed to high altitude will suffer from altitude sickness related symptoms. Researchers have described the consequences of travel to high altitudes and named the syndrome acute mountain sickness (AMS), yet it is most commonly known as altitude sickness. Headache is the main symptom. Nausea, vomiting, dyspnea (shortness of breath), and insomnia are other common symptoms. The traveler at altitude can also experience impaired cognition and balance. Onset of symptoms typically occurs within hours to three days after arrival at altitude. These symptoms tend to resolve after several days but can persist for up to two weeks.
At intermediate altitudes, 1,500-3,000 meters, up to 25% of unacclimatized travelers may experience altitude sickness. People with serious lung, heart and blood diseases are more likely to develop altitude sickness, and also healthy young adults who participate in vigorous activity upon arrival at altitude are also at great risk. Individuals with a prior history of experiencing altitude sickness and who live at low elevations are especially susceptible. Those who travel rapidly to altitude, as is common with air travel, are also at greater risk for AMS.
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