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High altitude sickness (in English and Chinese 中英文)


Translated and edited by: Joe Hing Kwok Chu


The problems of high altitude adaptation is mainly caused by low air pressure. The lower oxygen in the air causes:

  1. the alveolar oxygen pressure reduction and

  2. low blood oxygen.


Then the amount of oxygen in the blood decreases, resulting with the body reaction of:

  1. Increasing respiratory rate, bringing more air into the lungs;

  2. Increasing heart rate to increase cardiac output in order to increase the blood flow in the of the lungs and body arteries;

  3. Gradually increasing  erythrocytes and hemoglobin, to improve blood oxygen transport capacity.

  4. Increasing histamine production of the body to expand blood vessels to bring in more blood circulation.


Upon acute exposure to reduced ambient pressure of oxygen, there is an increase in catecholamines release. Hyperventilation (breathing too fast) can trigger the increase of catecholamines.  Among the catecholamines, norepinephrine increases progressively during rest and exercise peaking within of a week in high altitude. This increase of norepinephrine raises heart rate and blood pressure. Hyperventilation also trigger epinephrine (adrenaline) which can tighten the blood vessels and raise the blood pressure. The increase of norepinephrine and epinephrine increases sympathetic neural activity and causes the patients becoming hyper. Over production of histamine causes the over expansion of the blood vessels and causes leakage. If it leaks into the brain, it cause headache. It can also leak into the lungs. Over leaking into the lungs, the patients can die from drowning by their own liquid in the lungs.

Even with these adjustments, it is impossible for the new arrivals at the high altitude to maintain their normal body functions.


The problems can be eliminated after going back to the original lower altitude.

See climbing high mountain training.




  1. 肺泡氧份壓減少,

  2. 低血氧。


  1. 呼吸頻率增加,將更多的空氣吸入肺;

  2. 心搏率和心輸出量增加以加大經過肺和身體的動脈血流量;

  3. 身體逐步增加紅細胞和血紅蛋白的生成,改善血液輸送氧的能力;

  4. 身體產生大量組織胺以擴張血管而增加血流量。

急性暴露於氧氣壓力降低的環境時,激素兒 茶酚胺釋放增加。因過度換氣(呼吸速度太快)可以觸發兒茶酚胺的增加。去甲腎上腺素(兒茶酚胺之一種) 在休息和運動,一個星期之內達到高峰,在高海拔逐步增加。這去甲腎上腺素的增加能引起高心跳率和高血壓。過度換氣也觸發腎上 腺素釋放而收緊血管而引起血壓升高。去甲腎上腺素和腎上腺素的增加,引起交感神經活動增加而使病員激動。組織胺的過度增加 導致血管過度擴張而漏。如果漏到腦部可引起頭痛。如漏到肺部則致使肺部積水。過度積水能使病員溺死於自己肺部的液體。




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