High-Altitude Illness | Complications

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Is it safe to go to a high altitude if I have a chronic illness like heart disease or lung disease?

It depends on the type and severity of chronic illness you have. Most people who have a chronic illness, such as heart or lung disease, can safely spend time at a high altitude if their disease is under control. People who have coronary artery disease, mild emphysema or high blood pressure aren't at greater risk of high-altitude illness than people who don't have these diseases. They also don't risk making their disease worse by traveling to a high altitude. In addition, being overweight does not increase the risk of getting high-altitude illness.

Some diseases make going to a high altitude very dangerous. People who have sickle cell anemia shouldn't go to a high altitude. A high altitude is also dangerous for people who have severe lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or severe emphysema, and for people who have severe heart disease. If you have a chronic disease, ask your doctor if it's safe for you to travel to a high altitude.

Is going to a high altitude dangerous during pregnancy?

There isn't much information about the risk of high-altitude illness during pregnancy, so it's hard to say if going to a high altitude is safe for pregnant women. Some experts recommend that pregnant women not travel to an altitude higher than 8,000 feet. If you're pregnant, ask your doctor for advice before you travel to a high altitude.

What about children and high altitudes?

It's usually safe for children to go to high altitudes, but they're more likely to get high-altitude illness because their bodies have a hard time adjusting to the low oxygen level. A child may not be able to recognize the symptoms of high-altitude illness, so parents and other adults must carefully watch for any signs of high-altitude illness in children.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 03/14
Created: 09/00

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