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Ibuprofen could help prevent altitude sickness
A new study indicates that popping ibuprofen may help battle against altitude sickness.
People who took ibuprofen before, during and after a trip to high altitude had significantly lower odds of developing acute mountain, or high altitude sickness, than a control group, and those who did feel ill had less severe symptoms.
The results of the clinical trial will be published Tuesday in Annals of Emergency Medicine ("Ibuprofen Prevents Altitude Illness: A Randomized Control Trial for Prevention of Altitude Illness with Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories (PAINS)").
"This is great news for the millions of people who head to the mountains every year and develop altitude sickness, which can be very debilitating, even potentially fatal," said lead study author Grant S. Lipman, MD, of Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif. "Ibuprofen is widely available over the counter and well-tolerated by most people. This is a simple and inexpensive solution for an illness that ruins a lot of vacations."
Researchers randomized 89 participants to two groups: 44 received ibuprofen and 42 received placebo. Participants not given placebos were given 600 milligrams of ibuprofen when they were at 4,100 feet above sea level. After being driven to an altitude of 11,700 feet, participants took another dose of ibuprofen. They hiked 2.7 miles to an altitude of 12,570 feet, after which the third dose of ibuprofen was administered.
After spending the night at that altitude, participants took a final dose of ibuprofen in the morning.
The odds of developing altitude sickness were three times greater in those taking placebo than in those taking ibuprofen. Overall, 26 percent fewer people developed altitude sickness in the ibuprofen group than in the placebo group.
People who suffer altitude sickness can have any number of symptoms: headache, sleep disturbance, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, vomiting or lack of appetite. It's reported in people ascending to altitudes above 8,250 feet.
Annals of Emergency Medicine is the peer-reviewed scientific journal for the American College of Emergency Physicians, the national medical society representing emergency medicine.
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