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Where the air gets thin, a familiar medication may help

Attention hikers, skiers, campers, mountain climbers and anyone aspiring to visit Denver or Tibet: A study published today in the Annals of Emergency Medicine finds that ibuprofen may help to prevent acute mountain sickness, also known as altitude illness or hypobaropathy.

The condition often occurs when people first find themselves at altitudes of roughly 8,000 feet or higher. Symptoms feel like a “really nasty hangover,” Grant Lipman, MD, told me. The Stanford Hospital & Clinics emergency medicine physician led the double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 86 men and women, who ascended 12,570 feet into an area of the White Mountains northeast of Bishop, Calif.

In my press release about the study, I discuss some of the findings:

Of the 44 participants who received ibuprofen, 19 (43 percent) suffered symptoms of altitude sickness, whereas 29 of the 42 participants (69 percent) receiving placebo had symptoms, according to the study. In other words, ibuprofen reduced the incidence of the illness by 26 percent.

Photo by bobwitlox

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