Does anyone know of a doctor in Northern Virginia or Maryland that specializes in or has any experience in high altitude medicine? I am interested in diamox for an upcoming climb, and I have a number of questions. I figure my family physician could assist, but I would rather someone with experience in the area.
Can't give you the names of any doctors, but can offer a few suggestions.
When I went to Machu Picchu, I got a yellow fever shot from an outfit that specialized in travel vaccines - you might give someone like that a try.
Another suggestion would be to give Diamox a try before you go anywhere to see how you react to it. Have some Benadryl handy incase you are allergic to sulfa drugs (sulfonamides); Diamox is a sulfonamide derivative. Even if you are not allergic to sulfa drugs, Diamox has some side effects - tingling in the hands and changing the taste of carbonated beverages. Diamox also makes you pee, so be sure to stay hydrated if you take it.
They used to recommend Ghinko for altitude, but no longer do. I used it on my first trip to Peru and thought it may have helped - at least it doesn't have any adverse side effects.
I am a doctor with some altitude experience - and I have some knowledge of diamox (acetozolamide). The first thing I would say is that diamox is not a substitute for careful acclimatisation - "climb high/sleep low" - as per UIAA guidelines. It is no longer recommended to routinely use diamox when climbing to altitude - unless forced to (unavoidably)ascend fast (e.g. rescue worker) - or you know from past experience that you are prone to AMS. If going to altitudes of much over 4000m, expecially if likely to be spending some nights up high, then can be worth carrying some diamox 'just in case' (I have found half a tablet at night relieves troublesome periodic breathing - and at half a tablet, less likely to be troubled with the side effects (tingling, excessive peeing).
I would point out that many feel ill up high due to dehydration - always ensure you keep topped up with fluids.
I would point out that if you are ill at altitude and symptoms don't improve then descent may be safest option, whilst contining to address fluid balance and taking diamox at half to one 250mg tablet twice per day.
If you want to know more then here is an article I wrote on expedition medicine, where the issue of acclimatisation, the UIAA guidelines and diamox issues are all covered: