High altitude pharyngitis and bronchitis

Clinical Features

  • Dry, hacking cough is common at >8000ft
  • Purulent bronchitis/painful pharyngitis common with prolonged periods at extreme altitude
  • Severe coughing spasms can result in cough fracture of ribs

Differential Diagnosis

High Altitude Illnesses


  • Clinical diagnosis after exclusion of other etiologies (e.g. infection)

Expected SpO2 and PaO2 levels at altitude[1]

Altitude SpO2 PaO2 (mm Hg)
1,500 to 3,500 m (4,900 to 11,500 ft) about 90% 55-75
3,500 to 5,500 m (11,500 to 18,000 ft) 75-85% 40-60
5,500 to 8,850 m (18,000 to 29,000 ft) 58-75% 28-40


  • Albuterol
  • Breathing steam, sucking on hard candies, forcing hydration
  • Antibiotics are NOT helpful

See Also

  • High Altitude Medicine


  1. Gallagher, MD, Scott A.; Hackett, MD, Peter (August 28, 2018). "High altitude pulmonary edema". UpToDate. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
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