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Children at Altitude

Children have the same problems at high altitude as adults, but it is more difficult to tell when they are having these problems. It is essential to climb slowly to allow children time to acclimatise.

Young children can’t tell you how they feel. The carer should be guided by the child’s fussiness, eating, sleeping and playing. If these are worse than usual the child should be assumed to have altitude illness and stay at the same altitude or descend until they are better.

Older children can describe the symptoms of AMS, which are the same as for adults. Assume symptoms are caused by altitude and stay at the same altitude or descend until they are better.

Treatment for children with altitude illness is the same as for adults, but children weighing below 40kg need smaller doses of medicines and prefer syrups.
Carry a card with children’s weight, drugs and doses on.
Remember descent is the best treatment.

Discuss plans with your doctor at least 3 months before leaving.
Think about: clothing, clean water supply, strange food, sunscreen, sunglasses, preventing boredom and realistic goals.
Consider how you would get help if your child became seriously ill and who would look after them if you became ill.
Be sure this is a sensible holiday for the children.

4 year old Tommy was taken to Colorado’s Arapahoe Basin ski resort at 3,290m. He had enjoyed staying with friends lower in the valley, but was very unsettled during the first night at the resort. The next day he was miserable and refused meals. After he was sick he was taken to the resort doctor who diagnosed AMS and recommended descent. In the valley he was back to normal 6 hours later.

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