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Mystery Headaches

Is altitude sickness causing my headaches or something else?

Question:

Recently, while hiking up to 12,000 feet in the Snowy Range, Wyoming, I developed a pounding headache. I thought it was due to a slight case of altitude sickness. However, while hiking a 10-mile trail in Illinois, I again developed a severe headache. Why?

Submitted by - David, Stillwater, MN

Answer:

I can’t say for sure. But I can tell you that pounding headaches have three classic causes: dehydration, muscle tension (possibly from the weight of a pack), and a vascular abnormality sometimes labeled as migraines. If it only happens backpacking, I’m guessing either the first or second cause. If it happens when you’re not backpacking, I suggest you tell your favorite doc.
—Buck

1 Comment

  1. Brian White

    I experienced a headache like this when climbing Mt Rainier. Four of us had gotten up at 1 am in order to complete the climb up and down in one day; in the rush to get started, there was no time for such things as morning coffee. I had been drinking the stuff like a fool and was severely adicted to it. When you quit coffee cold turkey like this, headaches come. If I had had my coffee, I think I would have done ok in the thin, 14000 foot air.

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