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Work at high altitude

 
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jolindbe Reply with quote
Trainee Blebber


Joined: 13 Feb 2010
Posts: 23

PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2010 10:16 pm    Post subject: Work at high altitude
 
Hi all, this is my first post.

I am currently in a hospital in Canary Islands recovering from an SP (never had one before, never even heard of them before).

Long story long, I am Swedish, but moved here to La Palma five months ago to work at a telescope (there are quite a few mountain top telescopes here at La Palma). Our telescope is at 2400 m altitude (that would be... 8000 feet, I think). We have offices down at sea level where I spend most of the working days, but 2-6 (on average 3) times a month I go up the hill for a working night. That means one hour drive up in the afternoon, working all night, sleeping 5-6 hours after sunrise, and then drive down again. Recently, I've done four nights in about two weeks time, and also did some air travel in between. This Monday, I was going to drive up again, but I felt some very diffuse cracking noises from my chest, especially when bending forwards (and had felt the same the day before - note that it started at sea level, though). I also had some ticking noises from the right lung, but nothing that I would call "pain". I went to med centre (would never had done that for such a small thing if I wasn't going to the mountain), and they realise I have a 20% SP in my right lung, and say that it was really lucky I didn't go up the mountain with that.

I've been in hospital since that, I speak only a little Spanish, and only two of the doctors (none of the nurses) know some English, so it is a bit of a frustrating experience. I've had a Spanish friend here as an interpreter sometimes, though, so mostly it has been ok. I've got drainage via chest tube for a couple of days, yesterday they turned off the pump and today they took away the tube (very unceremoniously, explaining the procedure rapidly and vividly in Spanish... ouch.). I however managed to understand that if tomorrow's X-rays are good, I'll be going back to the city tomorrow.

I will talk more to the doctor tomorrow about what to avoid and not avoid, but last time I talked to him it sounded like I could go on with both mountain work and air travel only a week or two from now. The only things I should avoid was scuba diving and travelling alone to really remote places.

So, for those of you that managed through my pile of text, here are my questions: First, how soon should I be able to be back to the normal office work? And more important: Is it really a good idea to go and work at 2400 m only 10 days after leaving hospital (that's my next scheduled night)? Or how long should I wait? Before this SP, I have spent around 20 nights at the telescope, never with any respiratory problems at all.

EDIT: I saw there was a 3 years old thread about this already, but it didn't really answer my questions. A claim in the thread was that "mountains are much lower than airplanes, thus mountains are less dangerous", I would just want to point out why this is wrong: The airplane cabin is pressurised, corresponding to the air pressure around 1500 m. Also, when flying, you don't really do any physical exercise at all - I will be moving around instruments weighing around 100 kgs, walk around, walk in staircases, carry objects, etc.
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Hazz Reply with quote
Doctorized Blebber


Joined: 12 May 2008
Posts: 210
Location: Florida

PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2010 12:20 am    Post subject:
 
A 2400 m altitude you will be OK. The early signs of hypoxia generally begin at 10,000 feet and higher.
Just Don't push yourself until you get used to the lighter o2 at 8,000 feet.
We all get short of breath at lower attitudes as it is. You will get there a bit faster then someone at ground level or sea level. Just remember to take it slow.
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jolindbe Reply with quote
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Joined: 13 Feb 2010
Posts: 23

PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2010 12:26 am    Post subject:
 
Hazz wrote:

We all get short of breath at lower attitudes as it is. You will get there a bit faster then someone at ground level or sea level. Just remember to take it slow.


Sorry, but exactly what do you mean by take it slow? Should I wait a couple of weeks/months before going there, should I drive slower than usual the first time to get less altitude change per minute, or should I just be more cautious of exhaustion the first times?
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Ceebee Reply with quote
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Joined: 05 Feb 2006
Posts: 212
Location: Norway,Oslo

PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2010 11:21 am    Post subject:
 
You should not have any problems going up and down from that altitude.

I do it ( and higher) more then a few times a week when i go skiing in the alpes. It has never been a problem for me Smile
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