Smoke Signals

Mar/Apr 2011

Something to read and give real  consideration too when heading to the higher heights..





















"Polycythemia" mountain sickness


I have a query for those with medical expertise. I am bothered by altitude sickness above 8000 or 8500 feet.....my town is elev. 659 feet...and I have been told by several people that altitude sickness can be controlled by drinking lots of water...that the water not only keeps you hydrated properly, but it also supplies the body with some oxygen.

"You gotta drink your oxygen." I know I feel better at high altitude when I drink lots of water. Why?



"Polycythemia" is the medical name for your problem, has to do with red cell count in the blood when changing your surrounding (going higher or lower in altitude).

Definition: An abnormal increase in blood cells (primarily red blood cells) resulting from increased production by the bone marrow. Causes, incidence, and risk factors: Polycythemia Vera is an acquired disorder of the bone marrow, which causes an overproduction of all three blood cell lines: white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. It is a rare disorder, occurring more frequently in men, and is rarely seen in those under 40 years old. Its cause is unknown, and the disease is considered a hematologic malignancy.

Polycythemia is not a joke nor is it easily remedied, unless you know more than the hematology oncologist that I have seen. There is an approximate life expectancy of 10-15 years, which is not that long if it is your life you are talking about. The chances are slim of getting hit by a truck, but that is always the come back about not knowing how long you will live...

I read that people that live in high altitudes (above 10,000 ft.) have an increased number of red cells because the amount of oxygen in the air at this altitude is decreased, therefore the body reacts with increased red cell production. Those people move to a lower altitude, their polycythemia disappears, over a period of time.

So people going to high altitude not use to it may bring on the so-called "mountain sickness" do to having lower blood flow or red cells, usually by inadequate oxygen from the thin air. I have heard that to avoid the "sickness" approach the higher altitudes slowly for your body to adapt itself, that's hard to do when traveling on land, in a plane its done with pressure adjustments.

Drink lots of liquids, as mentioned water is the best, booze will seem to take less than usual for the same effect, anyone with health problems, over weight, etc. should see their doctor before changing to extreme altitudes as a safety measure. There are medicines available to help relieve the problem, can't remember what they were now, used to take in out of state hunters when living in Masonville CO and ones from lower to sea level altitudes did have problems, from headaches to sick in their stomach to not being able to walk any distances. Check your doctor Larry, I know there are pills available that seem to help.




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