Diamox (Acetazolamide) for Altitude Sickness

diamox (acetazolamide) for altitude sickness

Altitude sickness is a condition that affects people that live, work or travel to high altitudes. It happens because your body is not accustomed to the altitude level with low oxygen levels and therefore your body and breathing is negatively affected. This can be anything from mild to severe altitude symptoms. Diamox (generic name acetazolamide) is one of the few treatments to help avoid elevation or altitude sickness available by prescription from a doctor.

(This is not medical advice, you should consult with your doctor.)

Diamox (Acetazolamide) for Altitude Sickness

If you're planning on trekking to high altitudes, you may be wondering what diamox is. Diamox, or acetazolamide, is a prescription drug that can relieve symptoms of altitude sickness.

Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is common at high altitudes. It often occurs at elevations between 8,000 and 12,000 feet, but it can occur as low as 5,000 feet. Symptoms are similar to those of the flu and include headache, nausea and fatigue.

Does diamox work for altitude sickness?

Acetazolamide, also known as Diamox, is an old drug that has been around since the 1950s. It was originally used to treat glaucoma and other conditions, but in the 1960s it was discovered to be a very effective drug to work for preventing and treating altitude sickness. Acetazolamide (brand name Diamox) is now a popular prescription medication when doctors treat and prevent altitude sickness. 

Acetazolamide reduces AMS by decreasing the alkalinity of the blood and thus increasing the amount of carbon dioxide retained. Thus, respiration increases, since more carbon dioxide enters the blood in response to greater respiratory rate. The drug can help decrease symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, headache, tiredness, and shortness of breath.

According to the Journal of Travel Medicine study of acetazolamide prophylaxis, there was a 48% relative‐risk reduction in the prevention of acute mountain sickness compared to placebo.

Diamox (Acetazolamide) dosage for altitude sickness

Some may wonder how to take diamox for altitude sickness, which would be directed and prescribed by your doctor. North American guidelines recommended dose of Diamox (Acetazolamide) is 125mg twice daily for the prevention of altitude sickness. Dosage was based on a double-blind, randomized trial of trekkers at an Everest Base Camp in Nepal. The maximum allowable dose per 24 hours is 250 mg. The tablets should be swallowed whole with water, preferably in the morning and again at night, approximately one hour before meals or two hours after meals.

According to the CDC, treatment and dosage of acetazolamide sometimes begins at least one days before ascent, and continue for two days after arrival at high altitude.  

Ibuprofen vs Diamox (Acetazolamide) for altitude sickness

While both may be effective for altitude sickness, ibuprofen is widely available over-the-counter at drug stores and other retail outlets, whereas diamox is only available by prescription.

In a study on ibuprofen done at White Mountains of California, it showed a 26% precent reduction of the incidence of the illness.

However when comparing to Acetazolamide (Diamox), a study showed ibuprofen was slightly inferior. The acute mountain sickness incidence rate was 11% greater when taking ibuprofen vs diamox for altitutude sickness.

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1. Reduced Acetazolamide Dosing in Countering Altitude Illness
2. Acetazolamide for the Prevention of Acute Mountain Sickness
3. Ibuprofen decreases likelihood of altitude sickness
4. Altitude Sickness Prevention with Ibuprofen Relative to Acetazolamide
5. Acetazolamide Wikipedia
6. High-Altitude Travel & Altitude Illness
7. Altitude sickness - effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: acetazolamide, descent versus resting, dexamethasone, gingko biloba, and slow ascent.

***This is not medical advice, you should consult with your doctor.