High altitude cough

Dear Sir,
I am wondering what is the minimum altitude for High Altitude cough.
I have been living @ 5000 Ft for six years and seem to have it as I am waking up with
the white sputum in my throat. your thoughts and advice are most appreciated.
John Cuthbertson

Dear John

Thanks for your email to altitude.org.  If the cough has persisted for more than a few weeks or if you also have symptoms of being short of breath, my advice as a chest physician is that you should see your family practitioner for a thorough history and examination.  High altitude cough tends to occur at very high altitudes (in excess of 5000m or 15000ft) and the published research has focussed on people who have been at altitude for short periods.  I can find little information on the prevalence of cough in those who have been living at moderate altitude for several years.  Therefore, having lived at 5000 ft for 6 years, I think your cough may be unrelated to altitude. If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Kind regards

Roger Thompson

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Travel to altitude after a heart attack

My 69 year old sister has had a minor heart attack in the past and is now considering visiting me in my mountain home in Haiti. Our elevation is 5,700 ft but we can drive from the airport at sea level right to our door in 2 hours and there is no need for her to exert herself, except for a few household stairs, once she arrives. Does this qualify as a dangerous trip for her to make.
Thank you in advance for your advice,

Hi Rachel
Thanks for your question.
5700ft is not that high – only 1700mm (the oxygen levels at this altitude are 82% of sea level) and usually altitude effects are not felt until around 3000m/9000 ft (when the oxygen levels are 71% of normal).
You say your sister had a minor heart attack – what I would ask is does she have any on going issues with her heart – angina or heart failure and is she on any medication? Heart failure and angina can both be exacerbated by going to altitude, due to the reduced oxygen levels even at this low altitude.
If she is generally well and can manage some kind of exercise then I really would not expect her to have any problems. I would certainly advise her to take it easy for at least the first week she is with you and that if she feels unwell at all she should descend back to sea level.
I hope this helps – please write again if you have further questions.
Dr Kitty Duncan DiMM

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