Altitude Sickness and High Purity Oxygen

Posted by: Dave Popkin

Altitude Sickness and High Purity Oxygen - 09/08/17 11:07 AM

Hello All, I am a passionate hiker and often venture into altitudes above 10,000 ft. I suffer from altitude sickness and get terrible nausea and migraines when I'm above 10,000 ft. elevation. I spoke with a friend in Colorado and he said that many of his hiking buddies use a product called Big Ox O2 in order to combat altitude sickness. They seem to swear by it. Does anyone on this forum have experience using this product?
Posted by: aimless

Re: Altitude Sickness and High Purity Oxygen - 09/08/17 12:32 PM

I'm not sure why you are seeking the advice of strangers on the internet, when you already have a friend you have consulted, whose judgment you are familiar with.

I'm also not sure what "high purity oxygen" might be, since oxygen is an element, not a compound. Moreover, no particular product is going to have 'better' oxygen than any other product. The only thing proprietary might be the container or the delivery mechanism, but this technology is old enough that I doubt there's anything special about the brand you named.

But, if going above 10,000 feet gives you terrible nausea and migraine headaches, and you still insist on going up that high "often", if you think using oxygen might help, just what is stopping you from trying it to see if it helps you? Such matters are often individual, so that it wouldn't matter if it helps others. All that matters is whether it helps you and the only way to know is to try it. Surely, you have plenty of motivation without our assistance.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Altitude Sickness and High Purity Oxygen - 09/09/17 02:07 PM

First of all, there is no substitute for gradual acclimatization. Our bodies were not designed to fly to 5,000 ft., drive to a 9,000 ft. trailhead the same day, and immediately start the climb to a 14er. Those who manage to do this without serious illness are lucky. And they may not always be lucky. I read a few years ago about an experienced mountain climber who was trapped by storms at the top of Mt. Shasta, developed Acute Mountain Sickness, and succumbed within 24 hours to HACE (high altitude cerebral edema)--that's what causes the headaches.

Second, the one medically approved preventive for AMS is acetazolamide (diamox). It can be a partial substitute for acclimatization, but not aways total. My eldest son used it successfully during the year and a half he was stationed in Tajikistan as a military attache and occasionally going up into the high Pamirs. Please talk to your physician!

Third, if you haven't already, please read up on and learn to recognize the symptoms of severe altitude sickness (those migraine-style headaches are one symptom of HACE). It's serious stuff! Altitude sickness can be fatal or at least permanently damaging. One pair of visiting US servicemen my son encountered in Tajikistan insisted they didn't need diamox. They both developed HACE and, despite descending as soon as possible, one is permanently brain-damaged.

Here's one quick but good read about Acute Mountain Sickness.

PS--since this is a lightweight backpacking site: the Diamox pills and their container would be a lot lighter than those oxygen bottles!