This is the easiest section of all, because it is simple. If altitude sickness becomes a problem the best treatment for it is to GO DOWN
. If your symptoms are mild, you may be able to stay at your current elevation, and acclimate to it. But if your symptoms are severe, you must go down. I have had to descend a few times myself because of altitude sickness, and found that it was necessary to descend at least two or three thousand feet before I felt better.
If you have a mild case of altitude sickness, then you may want to try taking a couple of aspirins or some other type of analgesic. But a word of caution here. If after taken a couple of aspirin (or other type of pain killer) and you still don't feel better, then STOP. I have known people who have taken a dozen or more aspirin in the night and all they got for their trouble, was a very upset stomach, and no relief. Continuing on by taking more and more pills not only is an exercise in futility, but it is dangerous. If you find yourself in this situation, you really need to go down. You have gone from mild to severe altitude sickness. The only remedy is to descend to a point to where you feel better.
My rule of thumb is this. If I get to the point to where I throw up, and then afterward don't feel a whole lot better, then its time to head down. I have had to call it quits on more than one occasion because of altitude sickness. But all this being said, I would just like to throw in a little disclaimer here. This is my rule of thumb, and it doesn't mean it should be yours. As I say, everyone is different when it comes to dealing with altitude. The experts would say, "If you vomit, then its time to go down. No matter what." So I will leave you with that final bit of information.
Now if you have symptoms, or if you recognize that someone else in your party has symptoms of High Altitude Pulmonary Edema, or Cerebral Edema, then you, or they need to be accompanied down the mountain immediately, no matter what time of day or night (everyone should always carry a headlamp). Some research says go down at least 3,000 feet, but I say go down all the way, and get to a doctor right away. HAPE and HACE are potentially fatal disorders. You cannot fool around with them. Even if you do not die, it is possible for some of the symptoms to linger on for weeks after the incidence. All altitude related disorders are completely preventable if you act wisely. It is always best to descend early on before you deteriorate to the point of finding yourself in a potentially fatal situation.
So in conclusion, listen to your body and be aware of the condition of your climbing and hiking partners. It could just mean the difference between life and death. I find that the reason why most people ignore clear warning signs of trouble is because they have a lot of time and/or money invested in a climb or outing. They hate to give up on their goal. I found myself in this situation once and got frostbite as a reward for my shortsightedness. Remember, no summit is worth your life. The mountain will always be there. But will you if you make foolish choices?