HAPE and HACE

The Difference Between High Altitude Pulmonary Edema and High Altitude Cerebral Edema

Let’s face it, nobody wants to become ill while climbing on any high altitude mountain such as Mount Everest. There is however two types of illness you need to be aware of, as they both can be deadly.

High altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) are two different forms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). HAPE affects the lungs whereas HACE affects the brain of the person.

High altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)

What is HAPE?

HAPE is where extra vascular fluid, which is a fluid outside the blood vessels, accumulates in the lungs of a person at high altitudes. This gets worse the higher you go and can be deadly.

What are the symptoms of HAPE?

The symptoms for HAPE are:

Being more breathless than normal at altitude
Faster heart beat
Breathless while at rest
Coughing up sputum
Having a high temperature

How is HAPE treated?

HAPE can be treated by descending the mountain immediately by going down to a lower level where the air is richer with oxygen. It is also just as important that the person is kept warm and oxygen should be given if it is needed and available. If it is not possible to descend straight away (it maybe the middle of the night) there are other treatments that may help. Putting the victim inside a Gamow bag will give the sense of being at a lower altitude and certain drugs can also be effective. But the best option is to descend.

Who can get HAPE?

Anyone at high altitude can become a victim of HAPE. He or she might be a strong climber and may have been up high lots of times before or it could be there first time at altitude.

High Altitude Cerebral Oedema (HACE)

What is HACE?

High altitude Cerebral Edema affects the brain of the person. High altitude Cerebral Edema is a form of AMS where the brain swells and ceases to function in the usual manner. This increases intracranial pressure and can lead to death.

What are the symptoms of HACE?

The symptoms for HACE are:

Loss of appetite
Fatigue
Weakness
Dizziness
Confusion
Vomiting
Nausea
Headaches

How is HACE treated?

For someone with HACE, decent is the best treatment. As with HAPE, you could use a Gamow bag and drugs if descent is out of the question at the given time.

Who can get HACE?

HACE is said to occur when the trekker ascends altitude too quickly. It generally affects those who continue to ascend not knowing the symptoms of acute mountain sickness.

It is very important you know about these two illnesses and more important to know how to spot the symptoms. Ignoring them can and probably will lead to your death in a matter of just a few hours.