Hypoxia: Altitude vs Displacement

• russ_watters
In summary, the conversation discusses the risk of asphyxiation due to oxygen displacement by an inert gas in HVAC work. The speaker questions whether this is physiologically identical to high altitude hypoxia and whether partial pressure is the only factor that matters. The other person explains that while the physiology is the same, total pressure and the flow of CO2 can also affect the risk of asphyxiation.
russ_watters
Mentor
TL;DR Summary
Is there a difference between high altitude hypoxia and oxygen displacement hypoxia?
I work in HVAC, for those who don't know, and one of the things that you need to protect against in labs and chiller rooms is the risk of asphyxiation due to oxygen displacement by an inert gas. This is often described as analogous to high altitude hypoxia - and the math is related - but is it actually physiologically identical? Or to ask another way, is partial pressure the only thing that matters or does concentration matter?

Klystron and berkeman
The physiology is the same - but partial pressure is not the only thing that matters.
You are both exhaling CO2 and inhaling O2. From what I recall from a physiological training seminar, with high altitude hypoxia, part of the problem is that there may not be enough total pressure to overcome the outgoing flow of CO2. So you can get a CO2 block at the alvioli level.

jim mcnamara, russ_watters, berkeman and 1 other person

1. What is hypoxia?

Hypoxia is a condition where there is a decrease in the amount of oxygen reaching the body's tissues.

2. How does altitude affect hypoxia?

As altitude increases, the air pressure decreases, resulting in less oxygen being available for the body to use. This can lead to hypoxia in individuals who are not acclimatized to high altitudes.

3. What is the difference between altitude and displacement in relation to hypoxia?

Altitude refers to the height above sea level, while displacement refers to the distance from the Earth's surface. Both altitude and displacement can affect hypoxia, but in different ways. Altitude affects hypoxia by decreasing the amount of oxygen available, while displacement can affect hypoxia by changing the atmospheric pressure and oxygen levels in a specific location.

4. How does the body adapt to hypoxia at high altitudes?

The body can adapt to hypoxia at high altitudes through a process called acclimatization. This involves an increase in the production of red blood cells to carry more oxygen, as well as changes in breathing and heart rate to compensate for the lower oxygen levels.

5. What are the risks of hypoxia at high altitudes?

Hypoxia at high altitudes can lead to altitude sickness, which can cause symptoms such as headache, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue. In severe cases, it can lead to more serious conditions like high altitude pulmonary edema or cerebral edema, which can be life-threatening.

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