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Several month ago me and my climbing partner were climbing a mountain over 7000m. In first few day my climbing partner got AMS. It was high-altitude pulmonary edema (he felt very bad, he had strong cough with blood). So we gave him an injection of Dexamethasone and safely returned him home.

He was treated for about a month and now he's healthy. He is doing different sports like cycling, running etc...

We are going to climb another mountain ~5000m. I'm afraid of repeating described situation. I have tried to read about medical research on this topic but unable to find the answer.

  • It would be useful to know what altitude did he get AMS, how quickly did you acclimatize? – user5330 Dec 22 '17 at 2:45
  • Absolutely do not allow your friend to climb without seeing a doctor. High altitude pulmonary edema is one of the few fatal forms of high altitude sickness. Up to 50% of people can die of it if not properly treated. There is a lot of medical research. While the excellent information Charlie gave you about HAI is true, you must also look for specific information on HAPE. It is mentioned in most of Charlie's sources, you just need to find the right section on the page. @imsodin also warned of it in his edit to Charlie's answer. Please be careful! – Sue Saddest Farewell TGO GL Dec 22 '17 at 3:03
  • @mattnz, we recognized AMS on low altitude, it was 3500m. First day he arrived to 3500m(I have spent 1 additional day on 1500m), second day we went to 4500m for acclimatization and returned the same day to 3500m. Then we decided to have a rest day. During this rest day we had a slow walk to 4000m. On a fourth day in the morning my friend got HAPE. He could not sleep and he could not rest during the night. I think this is one of the reason why he get HAPE. – user1209304 Dec 22 '17 at 8:45
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    Given that history, High altitude climbing is one of those activities your friend has to be prepared to die to do. If you join him, you need to decide if you are prepared to live with those consequences and your part in them. Its not a decision to be made lightly for both of you, I wish you good luck. – user5330 Dec 22 '17 at 19:46
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Yes, he can get it again and in fact people with a history of altitude sickness have a higher risk of getting it again.

Risk factors for altitude illness include rapid ascent, strenuous physical exertion, young age, living at a low altitude, and a history of altitude illness.

Altitude Illness: Risk Factors, Prevention, Presentation, and Treatment

If you have a previous history of suffering from acute mountain sickness, then you are probably more likely to get it again.

Altitude Sickness

There was also a study done on this question

"Return to Activity at Altitude After High-Altitude Illness"

Sports and other activities at high altitude are popular, yet they pose the unique risk for high-altitude illness (HAI). Once those who have suffered from a HAI recover, they commonly desire or need to perform the same activity at altitude in the immediate or distant future.

...

In addition to the type of HAI experienced and the current level of recovery, factors needing consideration in the return-to-play plan include physical activity requirements, flexibility of the activity schedule, and available medical equipment and facilities. Most important, adherence to prudent acclimatization protocols and gradual ascent recommendations (when above 3000 m, no more than 600-m net elevation gain per day, and 1 rest day every 1 to 2 ascent days) is powerful in its preventive value and thus strongly recommended.

...

Conclusion:

With a thoughtful plan, most recurrent HAI in athletes can be prevented.

Return to Activity at Altitude After High-Altitude Illness

So it looks like while your friend does have a higher risk, it doesn't mean that he has to stop, just that you need to be more careful and ascend slower next time. Given that you already made this awful experience and are researching the topic, you probably already know this: You need to read up on and consult a professional about how to acclimatize correctly and most importantly, how to detect signs of AMS. You must be able to turn around and seek lower terrain before it gets as bad as developing pulmonary edema.

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    I added some cautionary notes about trying again that I felt were appropriate/necessary, but definitely didn't warrant an answer of my own, especially as yours covers the main part perfectly. I hope it is fine with you, otherwise please roll back. – imsodin Dec 21 '17 at 17:49
  • @Charlie Brumbaugh, this is great answer, thanks – user1209304 Dec 21 '17 at 18:22
  • @imsodin, I did some research and agree with you that while this covers HAI really well, HAPE is worse than the usual HAI, so I emphasized part of what you said. I hope that's fine with both Charlie and you. If not, I apologize and hope one of you will roll back! – Sue Saddest Farewell TGO GL Dec 22 '17 at 3:10

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