The adventurous traveler seeks the thrill of conquering nature’s challenges. However, mountain climbing and scuba diving have serious risks. While common sense should always be your guide, there are also specific recommendations to avoid illness and injury.
Altitude sickness (AS) occurs at altitudes above 7,000 feet above sea level and ranges from a mild disorder to a life threatening neurological disease. Symptoms develop as oxygen supply decreases.
The mildest form of AS is Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), characterized by a throbbing headache, nausea and dizziness.
If AS worsens, life threatening brain swelling and lung failure can develop. Any trekker or climber is susceptible to this condition. Both HAPE and HACE are preventable, and if developed, may be effectively treated.
- Climb slowly and limit your ascent to 2,500 – 3000 feet daily.
- If possible, descend to a lower altitude for sleep.
- If AMS is suspected, do not climb further until symptoms resolve.
- Never climb alone.
- If more serious symptoms develop, such as confusion or an unsteady gait, descend immediately.
- Discuss with a Travel Clinics of America physician if you should take medication to prevent and treat AS.
Scuba divers face risks of serious complications including decompression sickness (“the bends”) and air embolism. Diving abroad may be more hazardous as the available medical care may not meet U.S. standards.
- Follow established diving principles to avoid serious illnesses, which can be fatal.
- Avoid high altitude activities for 24 hours after diving, including air travel and mountain climbing, in order to decrease the risk of decompression illness.
- Dive conservatively and stay well within your limits.
- Dive only with a reputable diving outfit.
- If the equipment or training seems shaky, then dive elsewhere.