Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy in Altitude Sickness
Altitude sickness is a group of symptoms that can develop when a person walks or climbs to a higher altitude. Altitude sickness happens because of a drop in air pressure (called barometric pressure) and because there is less oxygen available at higher altitudes. Altitude sickness symptoms start developing after reaching altitudes higher than 2,400 m (7,875 ft). More severe forms of altitude sickness are High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE).
People suffering from altitude sickness must be taken to a lower elevation immediately. When immediate descent is not possible, a hyperbaric chamber, that can provide hyperbaric oxygen therapy, can save lives.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized room or tube. In a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber, the air pressure is increased to three times higher than normal. Thus, the conditions inside the chamber make it possible for the lungs to gather more oxygen, as if you were breathing at lower altitudes. Your body carries the oxygen throughout the body, resulting in a relief of high altitude illness symptoms.
New Hyperbaric Chamber at Vallot Hut
Located below the Bosses Ridge between the Dome du Gouter and the Mont-Blanc summit, at an altitude of 4,362 m (14,311 ft), the Vallot Hut is an emergency shelter, and not a base for ascending the Mont-Blanc summit.
The hut, which was designed to accommodate up to 12 people, is meant to provide shelter to those mountaineers who are hit by bad weather conditions, suffer from altitude sickness or experience any other kind of emergency.
The Vallot hut is considered to have saved many lives and to have offered shelter to many mountaineers in distress throughout the years.
The former hyperbaric chamber of the Vallot hut has been in place for over a decade. However, it was recently discovered that the chamber had holes in it and it was no longer functional.
Thus, the municipality of Saint-Gervais-les-Bains financed the new hyperbaric chamber at the Vallot Hut.
The new hyperbaric chamber was brought and installed to the Vallot refuge by the PGHM of Chamonix, on 29 July 2020.
Sources @ Radio Mont-Blanc, www.mayoclinic.org, www.tourdumontblanc.holiday, www.health.harvard.edu, www.pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov