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Mountain sickness or how is it easier to transfer the miner?


Mountain sickness (miner, acclimucha - slang) is a painful condition of the human body that has risen to a considerable height above sea level, which occurs as a result of hypoxia (insufficient supply of tissue with oxygen), hypocapnia (lack of carbon dioxide in the tissues) and is manifested by significant changes in all organs and human body systems.

How mountain sickness develops
The standard misconception is that miner is provoked by a lack of oxygen in the blood, caused by a lack of it in the atmosphere. But science does not sleep, this question has been studied and, it turns out, it is not so simple: air saturation with oxygen has nothing to do with it. The sensations of the human body are influenced by several factors.

The absolute humidity decreases with height. Above the sea, humidity is close to 100%, by 3000 meters it is only 26%, and by 6000 meters the “great land” is 5%. Of course, rain and snow periodically saturate the atmosphere with water, but not for long.

Atmospheric pressure decreases: every 11 meters of rise, it drops by about 1 mmHg. The concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere, contrary to popular opinion, remains almost unchanged. But the partial pressure, that is, the pressure of an individual component of the gas mixture, where the total pressure of the gas mixture is the sum of the partial pressures of its components (it is difficult to imagine, but the pattern is clear) - varies and strongly (the tablet is taken from the article by S. B. Tikhvinsky).

That is, oxygen at an altitude is simply absorbed worse by the body. On a beach by the warm sea, blood is able to absorb 96-98% oxygen. And at an altitude of 2 km - only 92%, at an altitude of 4 km (Kinabalu) - 85%, at 5.5 km (Elbrus) - 80%, at an altitude of Everest (8848 meters) - 60%. However, venous blood is the same everywhere in oxygen content. This difference in the revenues and expenses of the precious gas of life leads to hypoxia - insufficient supply of body tissues with oxygen.

At what altitudes do the symptoms of "mountain sickness" begin?

This is highly dependent on air humidity. And not from geographical latitude and remoteness from the equator (popular, by the way, prejudice). If in the Alps, where the humidity is high, discomfort starts from 2500 meters, in the Caucasus - from 3000, then in the Tien Shan, Pamir and the Andes (average humidity) hypoxia occurs at an altitude of 3500-4500 thousand meters. And in the Himalayas or in arid Tanzania - on Kilimanjaro - Pit syndromes are observed above 5000 meters. Otherwise, continuous crowds of curious tourists would not roam every year to the foot of Everest.

In mountains, especially high ones, other factors are added to the reduction of oxygen in the blood: physical fatigue, hypothermia, and also dehydration at an altitude. And in case of accidents - also injuries. And if in this situation you don’t act on the body correctly, physiological processes will go along the “vicious circle”, complications will join in, and the life of the climber may be in jeopardy. At altitude, the rate of pathological processes is very high, for example, the development of pulmonary or cerebral edema can cause the death of the victim in a few hours.
The main difficulty in diagnosing mountain sickness is primarily due to the fact that most of its symptoms, with a few exceptions (for example, intermittent intermittent breathing), also occur in other diseases: cough, shortness of breath and shortness of breath - in acute pneumonia, abdominal pain and digestive disorders - with poisoning, impaired consciousness and orientation - with traumatic brain injuries. But in the case of mountain sickness, all of these symptoms are observed in the victim either with a rapid rise to a height, or with a long stay at a height (for example, when waiting for the weather).

Many conquerors of eight-thousanders noted drowsiness, lethargy, poor sleep with symptoms of suffocation, and health immediately improved with a rapid loss of height.
Common colds, dehydration, insomnia, overwork, alcohol or coffee also contribute to the development of mountain sickness and worsen well-being at a height.

Yes, and simply the tolerance of high altitudes is very individual: some athletes begin to feel the deterioration at 3000-4000 m, others feel great at a much higher altitude.

That is, the development of mountain sickness depends on individual resistance to hypoxia, in particular on:
- gender (women tolerate hypoxia better),
- age (the younger the person, the worse he suffers hypoxia),
- general physical training and mental state,
- speed of ascent to a height,
- as well as from past “high-altitude” experience.

The combination of the above factors leads to the fact that the height of the development of mountain sickness for different people and different conditions can be very variable. Some begin to suffer from oxygen deficiency already at an altitude of 2000 m, while others do not feel its effect even at 4000 m.
Most healthy non-acclimatized inhabitants of the plains begin to feel the effect of height in the region of 2500-3000 m, and with intense physical work and at lower altitudes. At an altitude of about 4000 m, even absolutely healthy people have a slight malaise, and acute mountain sickness is recorded in 15-20% of the climb participants. At an altitude of 6500-7000 m, complete acclimatization, apparently, is generally impossible, in connection with which the participants of expeditions to the eight-thousanders of the world note numerous functional disorders and progressive signs of mountain sickness. In high-altitude mountaineering, the term "lethal zone" or "zone of death" exists.

Mountain Clinic
The acute form of mountain sickness occurs when non-acclimatized people quickly move (within a few hours) to high mountains, usually to a height of more than 3500 m. Its clinical symptoms develop rapidly. With a subacute form of mountain sickness, they do not develop so quickly and last longer (up to 10 days).
There are mild, moderate and severe degrees of mountain sickness.
For a mild mountain sickness, the appearance of lethargy, malaise, palpitations, shortness of breath and dizziness in the first 6-10 hours after climbing to a height is characteristic. It is also characteristic that drowsiness and poor falling asleep are observed simultaneously. If the climb to a height does not continue, these symptoms disappear after a couple of days as a result of the body's adaptation to height (acclimatization). There are no objective signs of a mild form of mountain sickness. If these symptoms appear within 3 days after climbing to a height, the presence of any other disease should be assumed.

With an average degree of mountain sickness, inadequacy and a state of euphoria are characteristic, which are subsequently replaced by a decline in strength and apathy. Symptoms of hypoxia are already more pronounced: severe headache, dizziness. Sleep is disturbed: patients fall asleep badly and often wake up from suffocation, they are often tormented by nightmares. Under load, the pulse sharply quickens, shortness of breath appears. As a rule, appetite completely disappears, nausea appears, sometimes vomiting. In the mental sphere - there is inhibition on the route, poor or slow execution of commands, sometimes euphoria develops.
With a rapid loss of height, health immediately improves.

In severe mountain sickness, symptoms of hypoxia already affect all organs and systems of the body. The result - poor physical health, fatigue, heaviness throughout the body, preventing the athlete from moving forward.
In the absence of treatment and downhill, mountain sickness leads to serious complications - pulmonary and cerebral edema.

Mountain sickness prevention

Climbers and mountain tourists planning ascents and hiking in the mountains should understand that the likelihood of mountain sickness among participants is reduced:

- good informational and psychological preparation,
- good physical fitness,
- high-quality equipment
- correct acclimatization and thoughtful climbing tactics.

This is especially important for high altitudes (over 5000 m)!

Prevention of mountain sickness consists, first of all, in creating an athlete in good shape in advance of the preparation for events in the mountains. With a good physical condition, the athlete is less tired, better resists the effects of the cold, all his organs are prepared for high loads, including in the presence of oxygen deficiency. In particular, for athletes planning high-altitude climbing, it is imperative that anaerobic training is included in the preparation cycle (uphill running, breath-holding run).
When making high-altitude climbing, it is mandatory to take multivitamins (preferably with a complex of microelements), antioxidants: tincture of ginseng, golden root, rhodiola rosea, ascorbic acid, riboxin (it is advisable to carry out additional vitaminization of the body in advance, 1-2 weeks before going to the mountains )
Directly in the mountains, it is important to have good and correctly carried out acclimatization, moderate alternation of ascents to heights and descents to the overnight place with constant monitoring of the well-being of the group members. At the same time, the height of the base camp and the height of the “peak” lifting points should be gradually raised.
One can encounter a situation when the “athlete”, tired of the office, finally breaks out into the countryside - into the mountains, in this case - and decides to take a dose of alcohol to relax and “sleep better”.
The tragic consequences of such a “relaxation” in history, even not so long ago, are known: this does not contribute to acclimatization, but vice versa.

Alcohol, even in small doses, under conditions of hypoxia, is strictly contraindicated, since it depresses respiration, worsens the interstitial fluid exchange, increases the load on the heart and increases oxygen starvation of brain cells.

What is mountain sickness?

Mountain sickness refers to the types of high-altitude hypoxia, this condition is manifested due to a lack of oxygen when climbing into the mountains. Most of us live at low altitudes relative to sea level. When climbing to a height of more than 2 thousand meters, unpredictable processes can occur in the body.

The higher the altitude, the lower the atmospheric pressure and the partial pressure of oxygen in the air. Because of this, less oxygen enters the blood, and the whole organism as a whole feels its lack. But the cells need oxygen, and every second. When you climb a mountain, with every hundred meters you walk, less and less oxygen comes in, the body experiences hypoxia, breathing quickens, sleep is disturbed, and there is a loss of strength. Usually, after a day, the body gets used to new conditions and the condition stabilizes. But adaptation takes time. By the way, at an altitude of just over 5 thousand meters in the Andes there are even mountain settlements. They are accustomed to such conditions, adapted to life in them and feel great.

Factors contributing to the development of mountain sickness

In addition to oxygen deficiency, factors such as:

  • physical fatigue
  • lack of good rest,
  • hypothermia
  • malnutrition
  • alcohol and caffeinated drinks,
  • overweight,
  • the presence of cardiovascular disease,
  • a sharp change in weather conditions.

Not all people are equally affected by this disease. It is believed that women tolerate a lack of oxygen more easily. Of no small importance is age, general health, level of physical fitness. The development of mountain sickness is directly related to the rate of ascent and the time spent at altitude.

How is mountain sickness manifested?

Signs of mountain sickness in some people begin to appear already at the intersection of a mark above 2 thousand meters (for example, during an ascent to Fisht as part of an active tour to Adygea). First, mental retardation, weakness, drowsiness appear. Lack of appetite, flatulence and indigestion may be observed.

At an altitude above 4 thousand meters, some people may experience behavior, as with alcohol intoxication: increased talkativeness, gestures appear, sudden laughter, a sense of fear disappears and the instinct of self-preservation dulls. For others, on the contrary, consciousness is clouded, a person feels exhausted, can slurredly and inappropriately answer questions, complain of nausea and dizziness.

With a sharp climb to all of the above symptoms of mountain sickness, a severe headache localized in the temples, nosebleeds, blue lips, fever and even hallucinations can be added.

What to do when symptoms of mountain sickness appear?

As such, cures for mountain sickness do not exist. All drugs taken are aimed at eliminating the symptoms. Mild symptoms of mountain sickness do not require medical treatment, they can be observed in almost everyone who rises to great heights. If there are violations of the gastrointestinal tract, you can drink Imodium or activated charcoal. The main thing is to monitor the water balance and constantly replenish it.

If a headache occurs, you need to take an anesthetic, for example, Ibuprofen or Citramon. High temperature is brought down by Paracetamol or other antipyretic. With vomiting and nausea, you can take an antiemetic drug - a solution of Cerucal. It is important to provide the patient peace, to give him rest.

With more serious symptoms, only a descent can help. It happens that with a severe degree of the disease hospitalization of the patient is required, but most often the symptoms go away on their own a few hours after returning to their usual height. Regardless of the miner’s stage, the health condition improves after the descent.

How to protect yourself from the Pit?

The best prevention of mountain sickness is a gradual and leisurely climb. A height of 2 thousand meters must be overcome in about 2 days, and in each subsequent climb no more than 600 meters. In addition, it is important when drawing up a plan to climb the mountain to focus on the physical capabilities of the weakest member of the group.

Remember that one of the triggers of mountain sickness is dehydration. When lifting, you need to try to drink more fluid, limit the use of salt. The diet should have a sufficient amount of fast carbohydrates, their consumption reduces the likelihood of a disease. In order to minimize the likelihood of serious complications from mountain sickness, a climber with an oxygen must be in the backpack of a climber.

Watch a video about mountain sickness if you want more information:

If you are eager to experience the manifestations of miners, sign up for a trip to Elbus (more on the link) or a trip to Nepal.

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