Effects of Aspirin During Exercise on the Incidence of High-Altitude Headache: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial
Article first published online: 20 DEC 2001
Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain
Volume 41, Issue 6, pages 542–545, June 2001
How to Cite
Burtscher, M., Likar, R., Nachbauer, W., Philadelphy, M., Pühringer, R. and Lämmle, T. (2001), Effects of Aspirin During Exercise on the Incidence of High-Altitude Headache: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 41: 542–545. doi: 10.1046/j.1526-4610.2001.041006542.x
- Issue published online: 20 DEC 2001
- Article first published online: 20 DEC 2001
- Accepted for publication February 10, 2001.
- high altitude;
Objective.—To evaluate the efficacy of aspirin for headache when exercising during acute high-altitude exposure.
Background.—Aspirin effectively prevents headache when mostly resting during acute high-altitude exposure. However, the majority of individuals exposed to high altitude perform mountaineering activities, which might trigger headache.
Design.—Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
Methods.—Thirty-one healthy volunteers (20 men, 11 women; aged 22 to 59 years) were transported to an altitude of about 3000 meters and climbed up to 3800 meters. They then descended to a mountain hut at 3480 meters and spent 2 nights there. Tablets (placebo or 320 mg aspirin) were administered three times at 4-hour intervals, beginning 2 hours before arrival at high altitude. Headache scoring and measurements of heart rate, blood pressure, and arterial oxygen saturation were performed.
Results.—Ninety-three percent (14 of 15) of the placebo group and 56% (9 of 16) of the aspirin group developed headache when mountaineering activities were performed during acute exposure to high altitude (P<.05). Five hours after arrival at high altitude, mean resting oxygen saturation was 86.1% ± 2.1% with aspirin and 85.7 % ± 2.8% with placebo (P = .66). However, subjects in the aspirin group developed headache at saturation values less than or equal to 86%, while those in the placebo group developed headache at saturation values less than 90%.
Conclusions.—Although the prophylactic intake of about 1 gram of aspirin reduced the headache incidence when exercising during acute high-altitude exposure, the incidence of headache was higher than previously shown for resting conditions. Aspirin resulted in tolerance to lower arterial oxygen saturation without development of headache; exercise had the opposite effect.