High-Altitude Pulmonary Edema: Why Skiers, Backpackers, and Adventurers Should Care

Shannon Fiegel | | Industry NewsIndustry News


Physical Exertion at High Altitudes. PC: Moment of Science

High-altitude pulmonary edema, or HAPE, is the accumulation of fluid in the lungs; and it is deadly. It generally occurs when one rapidly ascends from a low altitude, to above roughly 2,500 meters. Risk factors include, but are not limited to ascent rate, peak altitude, and how intense physical exertion is. In addition, men are at a higher risk than women for developing HAPE.  

HAPE Patient Chest X-ray. PC: Maryrosegrant

If you are an athlete who often ascends to high altitudes, be sure you know the signs and symptoms of HAPE! If you have experienced a recent, significant altitude gain, look out for the presence two of the following symptoms:  

  • Shortness of breath when resting 
  • Cough 
  • Weakness 
  • A tight feeling in the chest 

Also be wary of at least two of the following signs: 

  • A crackling sound when breathing 
  • Blue coloring of the skin 
  • Rapid breathing 
  • Rapid heart rate 

If you exhibit these signs and symptoms, it may be time to get help. Luckily, there are ways to prevent HAPE.  

HAPE Prevention Steps. PC: https://slideplayer.com/slide/261531/

Stay safe and follow these easy steps to prevent developing HAPE. The Wilderness Medical Society also recommends not increasing your sleeping elevation by more than 500 meters a day and including a rest day with no elevation gain every 3 to 4 days.  

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