Travel Clinics of America is your best choice for receiving high-quality pre-travel care, sound travel advice, and peace of mind.
Climbing, Trekking and Scuba Diving
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.
High Altitude Sickness
Altitude sickness (AS) occurs at altitudes 7,000 feet above sea level and up and ranges from a mild disorder to a life threatening neurological disease. Symptoms develop as oxygen supply decreases.
Acute mountain sickness
The mildest form of AS is Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), characterized by a throbbing headache, nausea, and dizziness.
High-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) and High-altitude cerebral edema (HACE)
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.
Avoid high altitude illness
- Climb slowly and limit your ascent to 2,500 – 3,000 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, 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 untrustworthy, then dive elsewhere.