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Ibuprofen Cuts Incidence, Severity of Altitude Sickness

Reduced incidence; lower acute mountain sickness severity for healthy volunteers taking ibuprofen

THURSDAY, March 22 (HealthDay News) -- For healthy adults ascending from low to high altitude, ibuprofen effectively reduces the incidence and severity of acute mountain sickness, compared with placebo, according to a study published online March 22 in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Grant S. Lipman, M.D., of the Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif., and colleagues randomly allocated 86 low-altitude-living, healthy, adult volunteers to receive ibuprofen 600 mg (44 participants) or placebo (42 participants) three times daily, starting six hours before ascent from 4,100 feet to 12,570 feet in the White Mountains of California. Mountain sickness severity was measured by the Lake Louise Questionnaire, with acute mountain sickness diagnosed with a score of ≥3 with headache and one other symptom.

The researchers found that, compared with participants receiving placebo, fewer participants in the ibuprofen group developed acute mountain sickness (43 versus 69 percent; odds ratio, 0.3). The placebo group had higher acute mountain sickness severity compared with the ibuprofen group (score, 4.4 versus 3.2).

"We suggest that availability alone makes ibuprofen an appealing drug for individuals who travel to high altitudes," the authors write. "In addition, ibuprofen was effective when taken six hours before ascent, in contrast to acetazolamide, whose recommendations include that it be started the day before travel to high altitude."

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