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Ep 80 – Altitude medicine: heightening understanding of “travel consultations”


Posted 19 Oct 2023

Dr James Waldron, Dr Rashbal Ghattaora

With tourism having now rebounded from the declines during and after the coronavirus pandemic, our patients are once again travelling globally. But what happens when their destination is 5000 metres above sea level? Many GPs will have been faced with a “travel consultation”, but it can be a daunting prospect when carried out infrequently. What are the risks of high altitude? What medication might be needed? And why might beer taste funny at high altitude? In this episode, Dr James Waldron asks Dr Rashbal Ghattaora about his experiences working at high altitude in Tibet. They discuss how to approach a travel consultation, relevant medications, counselling and much more.

Key resources

  1. TravelHealthPro. Altitude illness factsheet.
  2. TravelHealthPro. Travellers’ diarrhoea factsheet.
  3. TravelHealthPro. General advice for travellers factsheet.

Key take-home points

  • There are resources available to help GPs deliver a travel consultation.
  • History-taking about the ensuing adventure is key.
  • Although not licensed for the prevention or treatment of altitude sickness, acetazolamide can be used to accelerate the acclimatisation process. Key side-effects include paraesthesia and abdominal discomfort.

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