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Ann Emerg Med. 2012 Jun;59(6):484-90. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2012.01.019. Epub 2012 Mar 21.

Ibuprofen prevents altitude illness: a randomized controlled trial for prevention of altitude illness with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories.

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1
Division of Emergency Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, CA, USA. grant lip@hotmail.com

Abstract

STUDY OBJECTIVE:

Acute mountain sickness occurs in more than 25% of the tens of millions of people who travel to high altitude each year. Previous studies on chemoprophylaxis with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are limited in their ability to determine efficacy. We compare ibuprofen versus placebo in the prevention of acute mountain sickness incidence and severity on ascent from low to high altitude.

METHODS:

Healthy adult volunteers living at low altitude were randomized to ibuprofen 600 mg or placebo 3 times daily, starting 6 hours before ascent from 1,240 m (4,100 ft) to 3,810 m (12,570 ft) during July and August 2010 in the White Mountains of California. The main outcome measures were acute mountain sickness incidence and severity, measured by the Lake Louise Questionnaire acute mountain sickness score with a diagnosis of ≥ 3 with headache and 1 other symptom.

RESULTS:

Eighty-six participants completed the study; 44 (51%) received ibuprofen and 42 (49%) placebo. There were no differences in demographic characteristics between the 2 groups. Fewer participants in the ibuprofen group (43%) developed acute mountain sickness compared with those receiving placebo (69%) (odds ratio 0.3, 95% confidence interval 0.1 to 0.8; number needed to treat 3.9, 95% confidence interval 2 to 33). The acute mountain sickness severity was higher in the placebo group (4.4 [SD 2.6]) than individuals receiving ibuprofen (3.2 [SD 2.4]) (mean difference 0.9%; 95% confidence interval 0.3% to 3.0%).

CONCLUSION:

Compared with placebo, ibuprofen was effective in reducing the incidence of acute mountain sickness.

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