Asthma: What are the possible effects of high altitude?

Individuals who are diagnosed with asthma might experience certain effects when spending time in an area with high altitude. Due to the diminished air pressure at high altitude, the air is relatively thinner and has less available oxygen.

The air temperature and humidity also drops at high altitude. These environmental changes can readily affect those who have asthma. Once the respiratory system is adapting to the high altitude level, this can aggravate the symptoms of asthma such as wheezing. The low level of humidity though might prove beneficial for those who have allergic asthma.

Respiratory system

High altitude is usually 8,000 or more feet above sea level. As the altitude increases and the air pressure drops, the available oxygen with every breath is reduced. This results to a drop in the oxygen concentration in the bloodstream and bodily tissues.

The body reacts to these changes in various ways. In most cases, the rate and depth of breathing increases right away while the heart rate becomes elevated. Other less perceivable effects include increased pressure of blood in the lungs. Take note that this localized increase in the blood pressure can help the lungs obtain more oxygen with every breath but can result to issues if too much.


In most cases, the rate and depth of breathing increases right away while the heart rate becomes elevated.

How high altitude aggravates asthma

The bodily changes that occur at high altitude can worsen the symptoms particularly with exercise. Based on studies conducted, it revealed that momentary exposure to high altitude can aggravate the condition.

Link between allergic asthma and high altitude

Even though short-term exposure to high altitude can worsen asthma, prolonged exposure can lead to improvement of allergic asthma. This is mainly linked to the nonexistence of house dust mites at great heights.

In such cases, the thin high altitude air can also promote improved airflow through the airways, which makes breathing easier. Even though this has not been studied at an actual environment, a study revealed that there is improvement with the symptoms among those with severe asthma if they are given a thin helium-oxygen mixture to inhale which is comparable to air at high altitude.

How to be prepared

There are certain precautions to take if an individual has asthma before traveling to areas with high altitude. The asthma must be stable and properly controlled before exposure to high altitude areas.

It is also recommended to continue with the regular asthma therapy. There should be access to rescue drugs and avoid engaging in strenuous activity while. In case symptoms occur and the individual does not respond to primary self-care treatments, it is best to seek medical care right away.