Friday, 8 June 2012


As a sufferer myself this is a subject close to my heart,and i am allways on the hunt for new studies and treatments.I did a blog on this in March-2011 talking about pre-climbing blood tests and the use of Aspirin as an anti-clotting agent,you may want to check it out before reading further?

Medic on Mt,Rainier.

I allways considered Altitude Sickness a syndrome rather than a single illness with a single cause,as there are too many contributing procceses going on anatomicaly in each individual case.This of course is a deductive matter for research scientists rather than old bush medics like me.My interest is not so much the cause,as being able to interdict the symptoms before they begin to take their toll.Its unlikely that any concrete cure will be found in the near future as most research in this field is carried out by drug companies out for profit,and the altitude illness market is just too small to justify intense study.So we are pretty much left with the blunder-factor where a researcher may accidently hit on a cure as a by-product of a sexier study.

Ibuprofen Meltlet Anti-inflamatory Tabs.

Last week a facebook friend posted two realy interesting articles on the use of simple (over the counter) Anti-Inflamatories that just might be useful in this interdiction process.They came from TIME magazine and ABC-NEWS articles,and these two links should carry you through if i havent bollocksed up the process as i normally do!
The meat and potatoes is that common anti-inflammatories like "Ibuprofen" taken as a 600mg prophylactic dose can interdict the most critical part of the illness, "brain swelling" which is that phase of altitude sickness where the real damage begins.
It is brain swelling that causes you to feel nauseous, dizzy, depressed and lethargic. The more serious symptoms quickly follow. Ibuprofen can ease (and possibly prevent) these symptoms by reducing inflammation of the brain's surface layer and of the fluid sac which protects it, much in the same way that it reduces swelling in a bruise or a sprained ankle. This is truly remarkable stuff, and I will be using it in the Swiss Alps in July.

Like most sufferers I take "Acetazolamide", which has a load of side-effects, not the least of which is marathon-pissing-at-altitude, an effect which can cause dehydration and actually contribute to altitude sickness. Anything that gets me off that is more than welcome in my med kit! Oral anti-inflammatories are not without their own hazards, however, and are notoriously hard on the stomach and intestines. So if you have any gut or circulatory problems, be sure to see your pharmacist and/or doctor before even considering taking them. I strongly advise you to read and take the time to understand the linked study by Dr Grant Lipman. The guy is also a mountaineer, so he has a personal as well as professional interest in getting his research right.

Topical application.

 I had a "light bulb" moment after reading all this stuff, and it occurred to me that "patches" would be a huge improvement over taking this medication orally in a mountain environment. But I can't find any anti-inflammatory patches anywhere on the world wide web, so must assume that they don't exist as yet? If anybody can find some, please email me with the details, I would be most grateful.
The next best thing, of course, would be a standard gel, even though this is a topical application it is eventually absorbed through the tissues and into the bloodstream with exactly the same effect, even though much diluted. So I am taking some of this to Switzerland to give it a try out in tandem with the pills.  Should be interesting!

Good climbing.



  1. Yes, all food for thought as usual, and how I wish I could take Ibuprofen and similar stuff for all the aches and pains that stop you sleeping when slogging along on a big trip. My problem is constipation. I only have to look at a pill and I bung up, usually for longer than is comfortable if you see what I mean. Can't actually swallow pills either so take the fizz-up-in-water type. Diamox always works OK for me in the really big hills but never bothered with it in the Alps. The pins and needles are a nuisance but I got used to them, and didn't seem to pee much more than usual!

    1. Yeah i hate pills myself,so i take soluble where possible.Ibuprofen do a "meltlet"pill that dissolves on the tongue,in water,and of course theres no reason why you cant mix a crushed or melted pill with a little food or jam.My mum used to do that when we were kids and i still do it when i am exhausted and likely to choke on the things.All anti-inflamatories should be taken with(or after)food anyway.Allso they usualy have the opposite effect on the bowel to normal analgesics.:-)


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