With trekking season in full swing, Global Rescue members heading to the peaks should be prepared with the facts about altitude sickness. Global Rescue medical advisor Dr. Eric Johnson, a globally recognized expert on high-altitude medicine who has spent decades practicing high altitude medicine, answers some of the most frequently asked questions about the types of altitude sickness, their symptoms and treatment.
What is altitude sickness?
Traveling to altitude, typically higher than 8,000 feet, can sometimes cause health problems. This group of problems is called “altitude sickness” and there are three main types. The symptoms differ depending on the type of altitude sickness you have.
Acute mountain sickness (AMS) -- This is the most common type and causes symptoms similar to those caused by an alcohol hangover, usually within a day or so of arriving at altitude. Acute mountain sickness can happen within a day of traveling or climbing to a very high altitude (typically above 8,000 feet). The symptoms can include:
▪ Feeling tired
▪ Feeling lightheaded
▪ Having no appetite
▪ Trouble sleeping
▪ Nausea, sometimes with vomiting
High altitude cerebral edema (also called “HACE”) – This is less common but more serious than acute mountain sickness. It involves swelling of the brain and usually involves symptoms of AMS but with worsened brain symptoms (commonly an inability to walk in a coordinated fashion).
The symptoms of HACE (swelling of the brain) usually start one to three days at a high altitude. They include:
▪ Extreme tiredness and weakness
▪ Trouble walking normally
▪ Confusion and irritability
▪ Acting drunk
High altitude pulmonary edema (also called “HAPE”) – This is also less common and more serious than acute mountain sickness. It involves fluid build-up in the lungs.
The symptoms of HAPE (fluid in the lungs) usually start two to four days after traveling or climbing to a high altitude. They include:
▪ Feeling breathless, with worsening exercise tolerance
▪ Trouble walking uphill
What should climbers do if they experience symptoms of altitude sickness?
Treatment depends on which type of altitude sickness you have. If you have mild symptoms of acute mountain sickness, rest and stay where you are until you feel better. Do not travel or climb to a higher altitude until you feel better and all symptoms resolve. Moving to a lower altitude can also help if symptoms do not go away in a day or two.
For a headache, you can take medicines such as aspirin, acetaminophen (sample brand name: Tylenol®), or ibuprofen (sample brand names: Advil®, Motrin®).
There are also prescription medicines that should only be used under the guidance of a physician. These medicines can help treat the symptoms of acute mountain sickness. These include:
▪ Acetazolamide (brand name: Diamox®) — This medicine can help prevent and treat acute mountain sickness.
▪ Dexamethasone (brand name: Decadron®) — This medicine can help keep the symptoms of acute mountain sickness from getting worse and it can help prevent swelling of the brain. It is intended for very short-term use (a few days) and if used, descend immediately.
The most important treatment for HACE or HAPE is to descend to a lower altitude immediately. If you have HACE or HAPE and cannot descend to a lower altitude, you might be put inside a special inflatable bag called a portable hyperbaric chamber. Once you are zipped inside this bag, a doctor or nurse will fill it up with air that is similar to the air at lower altitudes. A doctor or nurse might also give you oxygen to breathe.
Should those suffering from altitude sickness see a doctor or nurse?
If you have severe symptoms after traveling or climbing to a high altitude, get medical attention immediately. Waiting for treatment could cause serious health problems, or even death.
Can altitude sickness be prevented?
Yes. The best way to prevent altitude sickness is to avoid moving quickly to a higher altitude. Going slowly gives your body time to adjust.
▪ If you are traveling to a very high altitude, plan to stretch your trip out over several days.
▪ If you are hiking or climbing, don’t do difficult physical activities for the first few days, and avoid alcohol and sleeping pills.
▪ When hiking, go to a higher altitude during the day and then go back down to a slightly lower altitude each night to sleep.
▪ If you have had altitude sickness before, your doctor might give you a medicine to keep you from getting it again.
Call Global Rescue immediately at 617-459-4200 if you are a traveling Global Rescue member and have symptoms or concerns about your health!
No one films epic fishing adventures quite like MOTIV Fishing. MOTIV, an independent media production company, develops progressive fly fishing films and adventure travel series broadcasts for outdoor television. For the Costa Geofish series, the “trout bums” travel the world in search of fishing adventure, living a lifestyle of which many people can only dream. We recently caught up with teammate and Global Rescue member Thad Robison for a peek into the passion that fuels these angling addicts.
When you’re out on the road, what is the one item you never go without (besides your Global Rescue card, of course)?
Besides all the necessary fishing gear, rods, reels, flies, Costa sunglasses, and so on, the one item I’m always looking to be sure is stowed with our gear is our Global Satellite Phone. In my opinion, it’s the single most important piece of “safety” equipment we carry on our expeditions. We travel so far off the grid away from civilization that if, God forbid, we ever do have a serious medical emergency, it is our lifeline to contact Global Rescue when we are in the middle of nowhere.
On your adventures, is there a time you’ve come close to using your Global Rescue membership?
So far we have been fortunate and haven’t had a major medical emergency, knock on wood. Jay Johnson (fellow “trout bum”) contracted leishmaniasis, a flesh eating parasite, in Belize but it wasn’t until after we returned home that he found out. There have been a couple of instances where I thought we may need to make the Global Rescue call. Most recently, we were in Ecuador on a remote expedition in the upper Amazon. Chris Owens (fellow “trout bum”) injured his lower back. He’ll say it’s from hacking through the jungle with a machete to get our boat up the river, but I personally think it became injured when he leapt 12 feet down the boat trying to get away from a tarantula that dropped out of the trees into his lap. Regardless, by the time we reached our camp his lower spine had seized up and he couldn’t even crawl out of the boat. I thought for sure we’d need to get him airlifted from the jungle. Not as exciting as a blow dart to the throat from a native tribe, but it was still a concern to say the least. Were it not for the fact that we were watching huge arapima break the surface 100 yards away from camp, I think Chris may have said it’s time to make the call to Global Rescue.
What are the best pieces of advice that you can share with other adventurers?
Try to immerse yourself in the local culture as best you can. Eat their food, drink their local brews, buy items from the local vendors, and visit the local sites, not just the ones in the tourist guides. Your trip will be more rewarding memorable and fulfilling by interacting and getting to know the local people. You may also find yourself getting taken to some of the “secret” locations that they wouldn’t share with an uptight tourist. One of my best memories was from one of my worst experiences of drinking way too much yak milk vodka with the locals one cold night in Mongolia. Finally, always remember you are a guest in their country.
What inspired you to convert your truck to run on vegetable oil?
Our driving route from Portland, Oregon, to Ushuaia, Argentina, will be close to 20,000 miles. It only made sense that we try to reduce our carbon footprint on the expedition. It has been tough, though. Biofuel companies have really put the lockdown on recycled oil in the States, and a lot of restaurants in Central and South America never rotate their oil, so it really takes some time and research to find it out on the road. It has literally become an obsession now at this point to try and find the golden sticky fuel that keeps the beast driving down the road!
If you could fish in one last place, where would you choose?
Hands down for me it would be Panama. You have the Pacific and the Atlantic (Caribbean Sea) on both sides of you within a 90 mile coast-to-coast stretch! Nowhere else in the world do you have that kind of diversity so close to you. Every single saltwater species is at your fingertips in that country and it doesn’t get near the fishing pressure as other Central American countries.
If you could choose one person to go fishing with, who would it be?
My son. He is 16 now and he’s a laser beam with a fly line. Nothing beats fishing with your boy.
What does “adventure” mean to you? Now’s your chance to show us – with your best photo that conveys the spirit of adventure. Today marks the launch of our “In the Spirit of Adventure” Photo Contest. Entries are due by November 15, 2013.
First prize is a Global Rescue Family Medical and Security Membership plus Iridium 9575 Phone with Explorer Satellite Communications ($2500 value). Second prize is a Global Rescue Annual Individual Medical & Security Membership. Third prize is a subscription to Backpacker Magazine.
Our expert panel of judges includes:
o Jim Klug, founder and director of operations, Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures
o Jim Sano, vice president of travel, tourism and conservation, World Wildlife Fund
o Shannon Stowell, president, Adventure Travel Trade Association
o Genny Fullerton, photo editor, Backpacker magazine
Submit your photo here by November 15, 2013, with a one sentence caption describing the photo. Maximum one entry per person. Winners will be announced December 4, 2013. Read complete contest details here.
Good luck to all!
Broad Peak, also known as K3, is the twelfth highest mountain on Earth and lies in the Karakoram range in Pakistan on the border with China. For one Global Rescue member, the experience of climbing Broad Peak included a dramatic twist that could have proved tragic.
To acclimatize to the high altitude, the member was making a series of trips from Base Camp to Camp Two and Camp Three. When a piece of ice broke free from his crampon on the descent from Camp Two, the member fell 20 feet onto rocks, bounced, and fell another 100 feet before he was able to stop himself with his ice axe. Had he fallen another 200 feet, he would have dropped off a 4,000 foot cliff. Realizing his leg was broken, the member made his way to a fixed rope several feet away and clipped himself in. His climbing partner, half an hour behind, was rappelling and saw his friend’s predicament. The partner helped secure the member’s leg for the trip back to Camp One and finally Base Camp. Global Rescue was contacted and coordinated the helicopter evacuation.
“Knowing the helicopter was coming was great,” said the member. “Twice due to weather it had to turn back but eventually made it. My partner and I were brought to Paiyu, a post along a glacier. From there we picked up the body of a climber who had perished unfortunately and we went on to Skardu.”
Once stabilized and with surgery back at home recommended as the best course of action, the member was flown from Skardu, via Islamabad, Saudi Arabia, Paris and finally to Atlanta, Georgia.
The X-rays showed seven fractures in the member’s tibia, fibia and ankle, resulting in a surgery that added 17 screws and two plates. Prognosis for recovery is very good.
“Global Rescue got me home in a timely manner to have surgery. Without Global Rescue, I may have had no options for surgery.”
An American Alpine Club member for several years, the member learned of Global Rescue through the organization and “always had that card in my back pocket. Global Rescue did everything they advertised.”
Grounded for at least a year, the member notes that he will get back to running and biking. “I may pursue simpler mountains but climbing’s in my blood and what I love to do.”
Sadly, three of the member’s climbing mates perished during the climb a few days before he was helicoptered out. “Someone was watching over me.”
Today we officially launched GRIDTM, the world’s only integrated, web-enabled, travel risk and crisis response management platform. We can state with confidence that we have significantly improved the way enterprises track, manage and respond to risks impacting their assets and human capital.
With GRID, all “duty of care” obligations can be managed in one place for the first time. GRID features real-time alerts for global events, traveler and asset tracking, communications and incident response. These capabilities are fully integrated with Global Rescue’s industry-leading crisis planning, management and response services.
Global Rescue will be at ASIS 2013 in Chicago this week demonstrating GRID at Booth #4625. Stop by or read more about GRID here.
“Are you covered if you fall during a hike on the Inca Trail in Peru and you need to be evacuated? How about if you're on a safari in an African jungle and one of the animals comes too close and you get hurt?”
These are questions posed to adventure travelers by About.com Adventure Travel writer Lois Friedland. Too often, travelers learn too late that their travel insurance covers less than they thought, and that no one is coming to assist them after an injury.
Friedland spoke with Global Rescue CEO and founder Dan Richards about the company and the services it offers. Global Rescue “is not travel insurance, it's more like AAA for your body, rather than your car," explains Richards. Unlike most companies, Global Rescue will deploy personnel to the site of injury or illness.
Read the full article here.
Against the backdrop of a possible U.S. military strike against Syria and rising tensions worldwide, Conde Nast Traveler’s Wendy Perrin spoke with Global Rescue CEO Dan Richards about ways in which travelers can stay safe abroad. Many travelers are worried about their trips to travel to countries such as Turkey, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and western Africa, in particular, given the potential for anti-American sentiment.
With insights from Richards, Perrin highlights these tips for staying safe in places where there could be anti-Western sentiment:
Don’t advertise your Americanness.
Forgo bold colors in favor of earth tones. Wear nothing that could identify you as American: No Nikes, jeans, baseball caps, or logos. And no religious jewelry—such as a Christian cross or a Star of David.
Don’t display more skin or wear more revealing clothing than is the accepted norm. Avoid ostentatious displays of wealth, such as big jewelry, that could make you a target.
Try not to look like a tourist.
Don’t walk around with a guidebook under your arm or a camera around your neck. Don’t study your map on the street or in a parked car. Go into a safe, busy store or restaurant before pulling out a map or guidebook.
Monitor the news.
This means staying at a hotel with reliable Internet access and with CNN, BBC, and Al-Jazeera. Check local English-language news Web sites morning and evening. Consider carrying a pocket world band radio so you can listen to the BBC and Voice of America anywhere, even if you’re without Internet access.
Avoid public gatherings in large public squares.
Don't get caught in a political demonstration or rally that might expose you to an angry mob. Often the gatherings happen in the same symbolic square each time (e.g., Taksim Square in Istanbul).
Bypass discos, nightclubs, or bars where westerners or Americans typically gather.
A place that is popular with the expat community or foreigners represents a possible target. Skip the Hard Rock Café this trip.
Be careful what you photograph.
Don’t shoot airports, train stations, government buildings, or people who don’t want their photo taken. Always ask someone before taking his or her photograph. When you don’t speak the local language, “ask” by motioning with your camera and motioning to them, smiling throughout, showing via hand signals that you’d like to take their photo and you’re asking if it’s okay. See what reaction you get. (This is good procedure in any country—not just Muslim ones.) If you want to photograph a person who’s selling something—say, fruit or spices—buy some and snap a photo of the transaction. (This makes the act feel like an exchange rather than an exploitation.)
Use hotel-arranged taxis.
Avoid taking the bus or other public transportation. “Don’t put yourself in a confined space where you’re potentially a victim," says Richards. "On the other hand, don’t travel around in an armored black Mercedes limousine either because you’ll be immediately identified as someone who is worth targeting. Taxis can be risky but are also a good way to stay under the radar. Best bet is to have a vetted driver or, at a minimum, one you use from a well-known location who has proper credentials.” Have your hotel call you a taxi. Arrange to have cars pick you up at the airport and drive you to and from restaurants at night.
Make sure your hotel has a great concierge.
You want a concierge who will make smart transportation arrangements and can detail the safety do’s and don’ts of the area.
Don’t travel with a tour group.
Tour groups are targets, says Richards, because they represent a concentration of foreigners in one place. “The tour company may be able to bring some security to the group, but the countermeasures are not outweighed by the ability of the attackers to do some real harm,” he says.
Hire a private English-speaking "guide"--more fixer/expediter/strategist than guide, actually—who will keep you safe.
You can find a first-rate fixer through an excellent travel firm specializing in that destination. For Turkey I recommend Earl Starkey of Sophisticated-Travel in Istanbul. For Israel I recommend Joe Yudin of Touring Israel. For the U.A.E. I recommend Lindsey Wallace of Linara Travel. They have excellent guides who will keep you safe. Don’t want a guide? Plan your walks or routes with the concierge’s input.
In European cities, consider avoiding Muslim suburbs.
Richards advises avoiding neighborhoods where emigrants from Syria live or where there is a track record of civil unrest or violence against foreigners.
Say you’re Canadian.
If you’re suddenly put on the spot by an angry-sounding local asking if you’re American, don’t be ashamed to pretend you’re Canadian. In fact, sometimes I carry a small Canadian-flag pin inside my handbag, just in case.
And here are a few things to carry as you sightsee:
• A cell phone programmed with emergency numbers—for police, medical emergencies, and your hotel.
• A neck pouch for keeping large bills and credit cards hidden under your clothing.
• Your hotel’s business card, in the local language, so you can show it to taxi drivers and get back to safety quickly.
• A mini-flashlight in case you’re caught in the dark.
• A color photocopy of your passport (the cover and first two pages) to serve as an ID while the real thing sits in your hotel-room safe.
Read the full article here.
Page 1 of the Boston Globe on Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, included a feature story on Global Rescue. The article, headlined “World’s perils give rise to a rescue business,” leads with Global Rescue’s recent Egypt evacuations and also touches upon the firm’s prior operations there during the Arab Spring in 2011 as well as other missions around the world in countries including Haiti and Japan.
An excerpt from the article:
At a time when companies are sending employees to every corner of the globe and adventure travelers are seeking thrills in droves, Global Rescue’s evacuation and medical assistance services are in great demand. The prevalence of natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and civil uprisings also means travelers are more likely to find themselves in crisis.
“You start collecting the data and looking at the direction all these numbers are going in, and there’s kind of a disturbing parity,” said Dan Richards, the former private equity investor who started Global Rescue in 2004. “We’re responding to a need that is real and growing.”
Read the full article here.
Climbers and trekkers continue to share their positive experiences with Global Rescue. Over the years, we have conducted hundreds of rescues in the world’s remote places. Nowhere have our services been used more frequently than in the Himalaya. The country of Nepal, in particular, has averaged over 20 rescues per year for the last several years and many of these rescues have included high altitude evacuations from Everest itself. Looking back through the years, we’ve rounded up some of the highlights. Our ability to perform a field rescue continues to be unique in the industry and we couldn’t be more pleased that our services allow our members to return safely from the world’s wild places.
Helicopter evacuation to Kathmandu
In April, a Global Rescue member developed severe abdominal pains during his trek to Everest Base Camp. Given the severity of his situation, Global Rescue evacuated him by helicopter to Kathmandu where he was admitted to the hospital for treatment.
Helicopter evacuation from Everest Base Camp
Dr. Robert Vestal, a member of the Wilderness Medical Society, expressed his gratitude to Global Rescue for successfully evacuating him. He commented, "I was exceedingly glad to have a Global Rescue membership.
“Thank you” from American Alpine Club’s Steve Swenson
Descending from the Sasser Kangri II in the Eastern Karakoram, American Alpine Club president Steve Swenson became seriously ill. Global Rescue managed a complex evacuation in a restricted area near the border with Pakistan and China that was not open to civilian aircraft.
Global Rescue evacuates climber off glacier in Pakistan
A climber had severe frostbite while on the Gasherbrum Glacier in Pakistan. Global Rescue dispatched a helicopter to the camp on the glacier and evacuated the man to a hospital in Skardu, Pakistan, for stabilization.
Further information about Global Rescue for climbers and trekkers can be found here.
Global Rescue is included in the Sept. 2013 Men’s Journal column “Ask Dr. Bob.” A reader asks, “What are the absolute essentials for survival gear when traveling in rural parts of the world?”
Dr. Bob Arnot responds that a basic first-aid kid may not be the most useful thing. Instead, he recommends travelers make their own kits. His list of items begins with a satellite phone. The second item:
“Global Rescue. This emergency rescue program works in conjunction with Johns Hopkins to help get you to a trusted physician fast.”
Rounding out Dr. Bob’s list of suggested items are oral rehydration salts, medicine, sun protection, a thermal blanket, tourniquet and an LED flashlight.
Thanks for the mention, Dr. Bob!