Ibuprofen May Ward Off Altitude Sickness03/20/12
TUESDAY, March 20 (HealthDay News) -- The anti-inflammatory and
painkiller ibuprofen seems to reduce the risk of altitude sickness,
according to a new study.
Headache, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, vomiting and poor appetite
are among the symptoms of altitude sickness, which affects more
than 25 percent of Americans who travel to high elevations each
year to ski, hike or camp.
If unrecognized or untreated, altitude sickness can lead to
high-altitude cerebral edema, a potentially fatal swelling of the
The Stanford University study, which included 58 men and 28
women, was conducted in California's White Mountains. The
participants spent the first night at 4,100 feet altitude. The
following morning, they were given either 600 milligrams of
ibuprofen or a placebo before hiking up the mountain to a staging
area at 11,700 feet. After receiving a second dose at 2 p.m., the
participants continued their hike to 12,570 feet, where they
received a third dose at 8 p.m. before spending the night on the
Symptoms of altitude sickness developed in 19 participants who
received ibuprofen (43 percent) and 29 of those who received the
placebo (69 percent), indicating ibuprofen reduced the incidence of
altitude sickness by 26 percent.
Among the participants who developed altitude sickness, those
who took ibuprofen had less severe symptoms than those who took the
placebo, though it was not statistically significant.
The study appears online March 20 in the
Annals of Emergency Medicine.
"Ibuprofen could be a way to prevent [altitude sickness] in a significant number of the tens of millions of people who travel to high altitudes each year," lead author Dr. Grant Lipman, an emergency-medicine physician at Stanford Hospital & Clinics and a clinical assistant professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, Calif., said in a university news release.
Ibuprofen is a widely available over-the-counter drug that is
safer and causes fewer side effects than two medications
(acetazolamide and dexamethasone) currently used to prevent
altitude sickness, the researchers noted.
There is more about
altitude sickness at altitude.org.
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