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Dr. Andrew Rynne
MD
Dr. Andrew Rynne

Family Physician

Exp 50 years

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Suggest Remedy For Pain And Dizziness When At High Altitude

I ve had a problem that I ve noticed just about all my adult life. This is not something that happens sporadically or that only just recently started - it predictably happens following the same trigger. Whenever I m in a situation of ascending altitude, my head begins to feel like it s expanding. Resulting in dizziness, headaches and nausea (I believe the nausea to be a reaction to the dizziness and headache, not a result of the original stimulus). It can get debilitating. To be clear, I don t mean airplane travel from sea level to the pressurized equivalent of 8000 feet. I mean just driving up to a mountain top (I live in VA, so I m talking about hilly mountains, not rocky mountains). Example: unknown to me (deliberately, so to eliminate power of suggestion), my husband once brought along an altimeter on a drive up to a local mountain resort. When he saw that my symptoms started (lightheadedness) he checked the altimeter: about 1000 feet above sea level, a difference of only 800 feet (I work and live between 150 and 250 feet ASL). It begins with mild dizziness and a bit of feeling high (no pun intended), which gradually increases to mild headache pain, which can get quite bad but is not a shooting or stabbing pain, just an all over, close your eyes and concentrate real hard and it might go away kind of pain (except it doesn t go away). The intensity increases as the altitude increases. Once at a fixed location, the symptoms remain until I awake from a night s sleep. Meaning that by morning after arrival, I m fine. If it s a day trip to a high (+800 feet) altitude location (meaning that I cannot sleep away the symptoms), I feel the effects until we descend, at which point all symptoms disappear. Even if I m acclimated to the high (+800 feet) altitude location, there are no ill effects upon descending - it s as if there was no change in altitude (coming down). I have found that constantly nibbling on snacks helps the situation. I do not know if it s the chewing motion that alleviates an inner ear issue or if it s the fact of having something in my stomach that alleviates the nausea, but that is the only solution I ve found (and it s not always a healthy, convenient or appropriate solution). I ve Googled and found sinonasal barotrauma and inner ear decompression sickness but I don t think either really applies. The definition of garden-variety altitude sickness also seems to be off the mark. According to Google (hardly a reliable source of information), there is no reason for me to be feeling problems at altitudes under 8,000 feet. It is not merely an inconvenient triviality. Twice I ve been bedridden upon arriving at a vacation spot (and fine the next morning). I no longer fly commercially. Driving routes and vacation locations have to be carefully planned (or totally avoided) to account for my reactions. Any ideas? I apologize for the length of my question but I wanted to be thorough.
Tue, 24 May 2022
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Anesthesiologist 's  Response
Hi,

I can see clearly that you have problem with high altitudes. Actually your organs of balance (vestibular apparatus in ear, cerebellum, medulla, spine) are to be tested for any pathology. I'm not apprehending you but to evaluate a specific cause and to initiate appropriate treatment, thorough examination is necessary. Kindly consult a neuro-physician and till then please avoid high altitudes. Also, once get your ECG,2D ECHO done in order to rule out any heart problem.

Take care. Hope I have answered your question. Let me know if I can assist you further.

Regards,
Dr. Pallavi M., Anesthesiologist
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Suggest Remedy For Pain And Dizziness When At High Altitude

Hi, I can see clearly that you have problem with high altitudes. Actually your organs of balance (vestibular apparatus in ear, cerebellum, medulla, spine) are to be tested for any pathology. I m not apprehending you but to evaluate a specific cause and to initiate appropriate treatment, thorough examination is necessary. Kindly consult a neuro-physician and till then please avoid high altitudes. Also, once get your ECG,2D ECHO done in order to rule out any heart problem. Take care. Hope I have answered your question. Let me know if I can assist you further. Regards, Dr. Pallavi M., Anesthesiologist