Objective: To determine the incidence of acute mountain sickness in a general population of visitors to moderate elevations, the characteristics associated with it, and its effect on physical activity.
Design: A cross-sectional study.
Setting: Resort communities located at 6300 to 9700 feet elevation in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
Participants: Convenience sample of 3158 adult travelers, 16 to 87 years old (mean age [+/- SD], 43.8 +/- 11.8 years).
Results: Twenty-five percent of the travelers to moderate elevations developed acute mountain sickness, which occurred in 65% of travelers within the first 12 hours of arrival. Fifty-six percent of those with symptoms reduced their physical activity. The odds favoring acute mountain sickness were 3.5 times as large for visitors whose permanent residence was below 3000 feet elevation as for those whose residence was above 3000 feet; 2.8 times as large for visitors with previous symptoms of acute mountain sickness; and twice as large in travelers younger than 60 years. Women, obese persons, those in poor or average physical condition, and those with underlying lung disease also had a higher occurrence of acute mountain sickness (P < 0.05).
Conclusions: Acute mountain sickness occurs in 25% of visitors to moderate altitudes and affects activity in most symptomatic visitors. Persons who are younger, less physically fit, live at sea level, have a history of acute mountain sickness, or have underlying lung problems more often develop these symptoms.