Purpose Buffalo, Wyoming offers many year-round outdoor activities to both residents and tourists. Many of these recreational activities occur in the nearby Big Horn Mountains, altitude approx. 9,200 ft. Local physicians report caring for many cases of high-altitude sickness (HAS) yearly, as well as an occasional case of high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE). A community project was designed to inform local residents of Buffalo as well as the tourist populations of the risk and prevention of these altitude related illnesses.
Methods The project included researching HAS and HAPE by interviewing doctors and patients and by reviewing current medical literature on MEDLINE. A brochure was then designed, which included risk factors, prevention, and signs and symptoms of HAS and HAPE. The brochures were distributed to local guest ranches, the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce, and trailheads of the Big Horn National Forest.
Conclusions HAS and HAPE are serious illnesses that are relatively common and preventable. A lack of community education about the illnesses may be contributing to increased morbidity among local residents and tourists in working and recreating in high-altitude areas.
Summary Lack of education about HAS/HAPE was identified as a community health problem by local physicians and patients. An educational brochure was designed that describes the physiology and signs/symptoms of the illnesses in an easy-to-read format. Increased awareness and education about this health issue around the Buffalo area may help decrease morbidity and mortality of HAS and HAPE in the coming years.
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