A survey of disease patterns in high mountain recreational areas

Sheng Chuan Hu, Wei Fong Kao

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Objective: To examine the characteristics of disease patterns in high mountain recreational area, and to investigate the prevalence of high altitude syndrome. Materials and Methods: The study was conducted from November 2000 to June 2001 in three travel spots (Ho-Hwan Mountain-3,050 meters meter, Yu Mountain-2,600 meters, and Tai-Ping Mountain-1,920 meters). To compare altitude and non-altitude illnesses, we used Student's t test and ANOVA as statistical methods. A P value less than 0.05 was considered statistically significant. Results: The majority (347, 91.1%) of the 381 patients in this study had non-trauma conditions. One of these non-trauma cases needed to be transported via intensive care ambulance and the others could leave after emergency care. Of the 34 trauma cases, five were transported to the hospital for further management via ordinary ambulance. The 347 non-trauma cases were divided into either altitude or non-altitude illness and pulse rate, oxygen saturation and body temperature were compared between groups (96.0±17.2 Vs 91.3±21.6, 88.0±6.1% Vs 91.7±5.0%, 36.1 °C±1.1 Vs 36.8 °C+1.1, respectively). Among 160 patients with high altitude syndrome, 155 had acute mountain sickness, 3 had pulmonary edema, and 2 had cerebral edema. The most common symptoms of high altitude syndrome were dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting and weakness. The most commonly used therapy was oxygen administration. The most common chief complaints in the non-altitude illness group were dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headache, coughing, weakness, dyspnea, diarrhea and abdominal distention. The most common diagnoses in this group were motion sickness, common cold, and gastroenteritis in that order. The most commonly seen trauma mechanisms were sport injuries, followed by falls and contusions. Conclusions: Although patient numbers were low, some patients in the high mountain recreational areas had critical illnesses. We did have high altitude syndrome in areas more than 2,000 meters above sea level. The higher the altitude, the higer the number of patients with high altitude syndrome. Lower oxygen saturation and body temperatures, as well as higher pulse rates were found in high altitude syndrome patients. The most common problem in patients with non-altitude diseases was motion sickness. Trauma occurred in less than 10% of cases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-380
Number of pages8
JournalTzu Chi Medical Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Emergency medical services
  • High altitude syndrome
  • Recreational area

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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