Sunday, July 6, 2014

Tip of the Day: Dealing with Altitude Sickness

If you expect that you will be ascending rapidly to a high altitude (10,000 feet or above), obtain a prescription in advance for acetazolamide (Diamox) and deplaning on arrival.

Generally, patients are urged to take this medication two days before entering a high altitude and for three days after you arrive. (Note that this medication may not be needed on gradual ascents to high altitudes.) 

A rapid ascent might typically involve flying from Miami to La Paz, Bolivia, which amounts to your getting off the aircraft at an elevation of 14,000+ feet. Whew!


Another effective remedy, although it tends to really agitate Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents in the US, mate de coca, or coca tea, which is derived from the leaves of the coca plant and contains several alkaloids, including cocaine, is very effective.

Although mate de coca, is an effective remedy for altitude sickness, a word of caution is suggested: Regular use of this tea can produce a positive drug test for cocaine!

On frequent travel to Perú, Ecuador and Bolivia, I used to regularly consume mate de coca, as it really helps  alleviate the symptoms of "drastic" altitude sickness (e.g., such as flying from Miami International Airport (MIA) directly into El Alto International Airport, the highest altitude airport in the La Paz, Bolivia.

Consequently, for those nations that prohibit mate de coca, unless the product is “de-cocainized,” very much like decaffeinating coffee, it is prohibited in many countries, so determine this before flying home.