Summit County doctor says high-altitude sickness can be deadly even for long-term residents

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Hugh Carey, Summit Daily

Dr. Christine Ebert-Santos, MD, shows off two posters she’s produced and presented on high-altitude pulmonary edema while inside the Ebert Family Clinic in Frisco on Tuesday, Oct. 10. The longtime Summit County pediatrician continues to plead her case for the disorder presenting even within full-time residents.

Dr. Christine Ebert-Santos is on a mission.

The longtime Summit County pediatrician has, for several years, been trying to spread the word on an acute altitude illness that even locals can develop no matter how long they’ve been residents. If not diagnosed or treated properly, the results can be fatal.

“All the doctors who work up here know that this occurs, but it’s not widely recognized outside of the mountain community,” said Ebert-Santos, who’s operated her family medical practice in Frisco for approaching two decades. “They think that kids and people who live up here are acclimatized and they won’t be as likely to get it. We just have to keep an open mind so that we can help people with simple treatments that could really keep them out of trouble.”

High-altitude pulmonary edema, or HAPE, can be difficult to identify because there’s no particular test for the disorder. Complicating matters is the fact that the symptoms — characterized by a bad cough, congestion, fatigue and/or sudden respiratory issues — often mirror pneumonia or asthma.

The ailment, which stems from the accumulation of fluid in the lungs and can be treated with oxygen, occurs in individuals who spend roughly 48 hours at elevations of 8,200 feet or above. The towns of Summit County range from approximately 9,000 to above 10,000 in some locations; so it stands to reason Ebert-Santos tends to see more of the cases than physicians on Continue Reading      

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