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Acute mountain sickness: medical problems associated with acute and subacute exposure to hypobaric hypoxia
  1. C Clarke
  1. Correspondence to:
 C Clarke
 National Hospital for Neurology & Neurosurgery, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK; charles.clarke{at}


This article summarises the medical problems of travel to altitudes above 3000 m. These are caused by chronic hypoxia. Acute mountain sickness (AMS), a self limiting common illness is almost part of normal acclimatisation—a transient condition lasting for several days. However, in <2% of people staying above 4000 m, serious illnesses related to hypoxia develop – high altitude pulmonary oedema and cerebral oedema. These are potentially fatal but can be largely avoided by gradual ascent. Short vacations, pressure from travel companies and peer groups often encourage ascent to 4000 m more rapidly than is prudent. Sensible guidelines for ascent are outlined, clinical features, management and treatment of these conditions.

  • AMS, acute mountain sickness
  • AMS, acute mountain sickness

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  • Competing interests: None declared.

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