Altitude-related illnesses are a frequent cause of morbidity and occasional mortality in travelers to high altitudes in the United States and throughout the world. The primary altitude illnesses are acute mountain sickness, high-altitude pulmonary edema, and high-altitude cerebral edema. The pathogenesis of these syndromes remains unclear despite considerable research. Altitude also has potential deleterious effects on common medical conditions including coronary artery disease, pulmonary disease, hemoglobinopathies, and pregnancy. Most of these problems are primarily preventable with appropriate information before travel. Education should include information about rate of ascent, diet, alcohol intake, physical activity, and preventive medications, including acetazolamide, nifedipine, and dexamethasone in selected circumstances.
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