Ibuprofen may reduce altitude sickness

1:58 p.m. on March 20, 2012 (EDT)
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I know that altitude sickness prevention and remedy has been the subject of many a post here on TrailSpace, but while enduring Jury Duty sickness I heard a quick report on CNN that got my attention. The link to an article on the Stanford study is below:

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/760487

I myself have never experienced Altitude Sickness, but my wife has and she was miserable. Ibuprofen really helps her for other inflammation, so I'm going to be sure to give it a try.

2:52 p.m. on March 20, 2012 (EDT)
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Peter Hackett and the late Charles Houston, two of the leading experts on altitude sickness, have mentioned this in their writings for NSAIDS generally. It is also mentioned in Paul Auerbach's big volume Wilderness Medicine (probably the best and most well-referenced work on Wilderness Medicine). It works for mild altitude sickness. More severe cases call for (1) DESCEND!!! or (2) stronger medicine such as diamox or dexamethasone.

Last weekend, when Barb and I were leading a snowshoe ecology hike, it turned out that one of the participants had been a "victim" in the study you mention. It was conducted double-blind. She said it was pretty obvious who got the placebo and who got the ibuprofen.

3:01 p.m. on March 20, 2012 (EDT)
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And it gets rid of those nasty headaches while climbing too.  Well, a headache might be a 1st symptom of tn sickness or dehydration too right? I wonder if one is doing himself any favors by masking these symptoms.

5:34 p.m. on March 20, 2012 (EDT)
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sage, I hear what you're saying. Generally speaking if things aren't too serious yet, masking them is not something to worry about. Once the symptoms become bad enough to be concerned with descent or more serious drugs, then the ibuprofen won't even touch it anyway. It will be pretty obvious that something is wrong, either recognized by the person's climbing team, or by the person him or herself.

5:35 p.m. on March 20, 2012 (EDT)
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Well, you are not masking a symptom with an antiinflamatory. If you are swelling it hurts, and if you reduce the swelling it hurts less. If you are not swelling, you are not having an issue. If you are simply taking a pain masker, I would agree. But anti inflamatories are not pain maksers. the pain is gone because the malady causing the pain is reduced or illiminated. I take alleve every day, twice a day for back, knees and other joint pain.

6:48 p.m. on March 20, 2012 (EDT)
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Post your findings afterwards

7:37 p.m. on March 20, 2012 (EDT)
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We have brought along Ibuprofen on all trips we take above 5K’ for this purpose.  Have been doing so for a long time.  As Bill notes, the soothing affects of NSAIDS on headaches related to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) have been documented decades ago during research conducted by Houston and company on Denali, to study the effects of altitude on human performance.  Heck I assumed the virtues of NSAIDS was common knowledge.

I personally prefer to use aspirin instead.  Similar affect, but you can take up to four aspirin if needed, whereas Ibuprofen has significant undesirable side effects if you exceed nominal dose recommendations.  Additionally aspirin can be taken prophylactically, whereas this is not recommend for Ibuprofen.

As Bill states, there are times when these remedies are insufficient, in which case by far the best and wisest remedy is getting the afflicted hiker to a lower altitude.  Lastly assuring one is well hydrated, avoiding physically overextending one’s self, and limiting ascents to 2K’/day go a long way toward precluding AMS.

Ed

10:47 p.m. on March 20, 2012 (EDT)
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I find that aspirin works for me.  I am less prone to altitude issues and feel better at altitude when I take aspirin.  I live at sea level but often go over 12,000' on backpacking trips, so this is important to me.

11:43 p.m. on March 20, 2012 (EDT)
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Whomeworry noted some unpleasant side-effects on NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), but I want to really emphasize it.  I wouldn't take one to reduce AMS.  Recent studies have been piling up noting significant side-effects from NSAIDS, specifically in endurance athletes.  Whether you run a marathon or not, if you are at an altitude where your body is fighting for O2, your body is functioning under pressures similar to endurance sports. 

One of my favorite quotes on the subject (regretfully from mass media)... "There are three true cures for any altitude ailment:
1) Descend
2) Descend
3) Descend" 

12:12 a.m. on March 21, 2012 (EDT)
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Callahan said:

Post your findings afterwards

 I will...but  also have a script for Diamox.

1:55 p.m. on March 21, 2012 (EDT)
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Cleric said:

Whomeworry noted some unpleasant side-effects on NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), but I want to really emphasize it.  I wouldn't take one to reduce AMS.  Recent studies have been piling up noting significant side-effects from NSAIDS, specifically in endurance athletes.  Whether you run a marathon or not, if you are at an altitude where your body is fighting for O2, your body is functioning under pressures similar to endurance sports. 

One of my favorite quotes on the subject (regretfully from mass media)... "There are three true cures for any altitude ailment:
1) Descend
2) Descend
3) Descend" 

 There are many significant side-effects associated with continuous use of NSAIDs and any other pharmaceutical, particularly systemic or transdermal  in delivery. One has to weigh the benefit-to-risk ratio and make their own informed decsision. Significant side effects with episodic use of NSAIDS are generally minimal (barring any pre-existing conditions/allergies related to a drug's side effects).  

Endurance Athletes who experience localized inflammation that cannot be eliminated or decreased to "acceptable levels" with changes to diet are better off using a topical NSAID such as diclofenac gel. If the inflammation is deep tissue, then a systemic NSAID merits consideration. The problem is that people tend to continually take over-the-counter pain reliever/anti-inflammatories with the misconception that it cant hurt them if they don't feel bad side-effects with first experience. No-one wants surgery on their GI tract for over-use of NSAIDs, but it happens all the time. Excessive Acetaminophen use can cause hepatic failure - self medicating with higher than recommended OTC dosage is definitely a problem.

If you have joint or peripheral soft tissue inflammation, Topical Voltaren Gel (diclofenac) is the most time-tested, efficacious NSAID therapy. systemic absorption, even if over-used, is 10x's less than a pediatric dose in pill-form. 

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