Short-term cardiorespiratory adaptation to high altitude in children compared with adults

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Abstract

As short-term cardiorespiratory adaptation to high altitude (HA) exposure has not yet been studied in children, we assessed acute mountain sickness (AMS), hypoxic ventilatory response (HVR) at rest and maximal exercise capacity (CPET) at low altitude (LA) and HA in pre-pubertal children and their fathers. Twenty father–child pairs (11 ± 1 years and 44 ± 4 years) were tested at LA (450 m) and HA (3450 m) at days 1, 2, and 3 after fast ascent (HA1/2/3). HVR was measured at rest and CPET was performed on a cycle ergometer. AMS severity was mild to moderate with no differences between generations. HVR was higher in children than adults at LA and increased at HA similarly in both groups. Peak oxygen uptake (VO2peak) relative to body weight was similar in children and adults at LA and decreased significantly by 20% in both groups at HA; maximal heart rate did not change at HA in children while it decreased by 16% in adults (P< 0.001). Changes in HVR and VO2peak from LA to HA were correlated among the biological child–father pairs. In conclusion, cardiorespiratory adaptation to altitude seems to be at least partly hereditary. Even though children and their fathers lose similar fractions of aerobic capacity going to high altitude, the mechanisms might be different.

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