Advances in the Prevention and Treatment of High Altitude Illness

Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2017 May;35(2):241-260. doi: 10.1016/j.emc.2017.01.002.


High altitude illness encompasses a spectrum of clinical entities to include: acute mountain sickness, high altitude cerebral edema, and high altitude pulmonary edema. These illnesses occur as a result of a hypobaric hypoxic environment. Although a mild case of acute mountain sickness may be self-limited, high altitude cerebral edema and high altitude pulmonary edema represent critical emergencies that require timely intervention. This article reviews recent advances in the prevention and treatment of high altitude illness, including new pharmacologic strategies for prophylaxis and revised treatment guidelines.

Keywords: Acute mountain sickness; Altitude; High altitude cerebral edema; High altitude pulmonary edema; Prevention; Treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetazolamide / therapeutic use
  • Altitude Sickness / prevention & control
  • Altitude Sickness / therapy*
  • Altitude*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Brain Edema / prevention & control
  • Brain Edema / therapy
  • Carbonic Anhydrase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Dexamethasone / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / therapy
  • Hypoxia / prevention & control
  • Oxygen / administration & dosage


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Carbonic Anhydrase Inhibitors
  • Dexamethasone
  • Acetazolamide
  • Oxygen

Supplementary concepts

  • Pulmonary edema of mountaineers