Altitude Sickness in Babies & Kids: Causes, Symptoms & Prevention

Altitude Sickness in Babies & Kids

Kids and altitude sickness have known to coexist for a long time but the connection might have been observed in recent times. You might have heard incidents of children having a tough time when they go to a hill station, or your own child might be suffering from it, too. While a nice trip to a high altitude place might seem like the best vacation plan ever, a condition of altitude sickness in your child could cause you to put the plans on hold or change them altogether. Thankfully, altitude sickness can be prevented and treated effectively, with a few tips and tricks.

What Is Altitude Sickness?

Altitude sickness is a proper medical condition that plagues people and children when present significantly above sea level. There is an entire range of symptoms that can indicate the presence of discomfort ranging from nausea, headaches, vomiting, or even mild ones such as loss of appetite. This usually occurs when the height is more than 2.4 kilometres above sea level. While some instances can only be mildly discomforting, there are possibilities of some reactions being extremely fatal to the person.

Types of Altitude Sickness

Amongst the various symptoms that can emerge at a high altitude, the phenomena of altitude sickness are usually divided into three major categories.

1. Acute Mountain Sickness

Generally abbreviated as AMS, acute mountain sickness is strongly categorised by the presence of nausea and vomiting, combined with strong headaches and a loss of appetite. Most people also complain of fatigue as a result of this condition. This is the most common sickness experienced at high altitudes.

2.High Altitude Cerebral Edema

Abbreviated as HACE, this condition usually has all the symptoms of acute mountain sickness, along with a sudden onset of lethargy, an inability to have proper gait, and a complete sense of utter confusion about the situation. HACE, if left untreated, can be quite fatal.

3.High Altitude Pulmonary Edema

Just like HACE, this condition termed as HAPE, also contains all symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, headache, fatigue, as well as a focus on the respiratory activity, leading to constant breathlessness, cough and extreme weakness. Though HAPE is quite rare, it is just as fatal as HACE, if left untreated.

What Causes Altitude Sickness in Children

There are no specific reasons to understand why altitude sickness might be triggered in some children while not in others. One of the strongest reasons behind that seems to be the presence of lower oxygen levels as compared to that at ground level. This usually causes the body to exert more effort in carrying out the same functions, which also ends up using more oxygen than before. Furthermore, any activity causing exertion, such as hiking or trekking, can lead to an increased demand for oxygen, worsening the sickness.

What Causes Altitude Sickness in Children

Possible Symptoms of Altitude Sickness in a Child

The symptoms of altitude sickness in babies or children are pretty straightforward and can be spotted by any person easily. These usually are:

  • Erratic moods ranging from crankiness to sudden periods of silence
  • The onset of depression resulting in an absence of activity and energy
  • A strong sense of fatigue and exhaustion
  • Sudden drowsiness that can be uncontrollable
  • The sensation of being dizzy, similar to vertigo
  • Signs of indigestion and a complete loss of appetite
  • Extreme nausea combined with bouts of vomiting

How to Treat a Child’s Altitude Sickness

In most children, altitude sickness is rarely quite severe and can be treated or reduced with some quick methods. Most of them work towards making the body feel better and instilling a sense of mental peace and calm.

  • Give your child a sweater or gloves to protect from the cold mountain air. Cuddle up against your baby in multiple layers if you can.
  • Stay hydrated. Let your child drink as much water as possible to feel better. Allow your baby to breastfeed as well since that could make him feel better.
  • In case the symptoms get severe, get your kids to the hospital as soon as you can.

How to Prevent High Altitude Sickness in Kids

Preventing altitude sickness in toddlers and kids can be achieved by adhering to some simple basic precautions.

  • Avoid going to places located at high altitudes if your baby is younger than three months or your child has had unresolved issues earlier.
  • Make sure your kid rests extensively once you reach your destination and not indulge in any activity right away.
  • When in a vehicle, try to drive slower while crossing hills and avoid taking sharp turns.
  • If on a long journey, take enough breaks in between to allow periods of rest and refreshments.
  • Let your kid sip water throughout or even some juices if possible.
  • Be aware of any symptoms and take corrective action immediately.

Babies and high altitude locations do not always go hand-in-hand, especially when they are too young. Most altitude sickness symptoms fade away once children grow up. Any other instances can be checked by the doctor to diagnose any rare conditions.

Also Read: Breathing Problems in Kids

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