December 30, 2008
Study Finds Children Often Suffer Mild Altitude Sickness
Results of a new study indicate that otherwise healthy older children and adolescents who visit high-altitude destinations may develop acute mountain sickness in the first few days after they arrive.
However, the study team reported in the journal Pediatrics that their symptoms are apt to be relatively mild, including mainly headache, nausea, fatigue, dizziness and trouble sleeping and will resolve rapidly.
Dr. Jonathan Bloch from University Hospital, Lausanne, Switzerland and colleagues point out that travel to high-altitude destinations has become increasingly popular, yet there is little information about acute mountain sickness in children and adolescents.
To study this, the team followed 48 healthy Swiss children for several days after they arrived at the Jungfraujoch high-altitude research station. To get to the station, the 20 girls and 28 boys, whose average age was 14 years, ascended by train from 568 meters to 3450 meters, "an altitude at which major tourist destinations are located throughout the world," the investigators note. None of the children had previous high-altitude experience.
Bloch and colleagues found that overall, 37.5 percent of the children came down with acute mountain sickness in the first 3 days at high altitude. The rates were similar between boys and girls.
During the first few hours at high-altitude, two thirds of the children with acute mountain sickness developed symptoms that decreased progressively during the next 2 days as the children became acclimatized.
The acute mountain sickness symptoms were relatively mild, and most resolved without treatment. None of the children with acute mountain sickness had to be evacuated to a lower altitude.
Bloch and colleagues say these data indicate that for children and adolescents with no previous high-altitude experience, symptoms of acute mountain sickness are self-limited and will last for only a short period of time.
The studies conclusion was that "giving children drugs to prevent acute mountain sickness, which may have significant adverse effects, is not needed".
The researchers advise that the use of drug therapy should be restricted to the treatment of symptoms (mainly headache) if they appear.
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