Travelling is always about adventure and excitement. And, trekking to higher altitude is no exception. Standing and walking several thousand feet above sea level, it’s as if you’re just a few more feet from heaven. But the overall experience comes along with the risks of altitude sickness as well.
Also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), high altitude sickness refers to a set of symptoms that can slow down or even stop trekkers from reaching their destinations. While it is mostly preventable, trekkers can be hit by this sickness regardless of age, gender, and physical condition.
As the altitude increase in the trek, the oxygen level in the air decreases. This results in various health issues for the trekkers and travelers. Your body starts showing different altitude related symptoms like difficulty breathing, dizziness, fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, Nausea, rapid pulse, and shortness of breath.
These symptoms are very frequent as you ascend further in the high altitude trekking routes. But they are not the end to your trekking journey. You can prevent these symptoms by getting proper knowledge about the problem and adopt the preventive measures on time. And, remain safe in the overall trek.
To ensure that you’ll have a fun and grand time during your trip and finish your adventure safe and sound, we urge all our clients to follow these tips for prevention and treatment.
Table of Contents
1. Know the symptoms.
To prevent the problem, at first you must be well aware about the symptoms of altitude sickness. When you have the proper knowledge about its symptoms then only you can take immediate preventive measures.
AMS usually begins with headaches, nausea, dizziness and insomnia. If not managed properly, a mild AMS can worsen into a condition called High-altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE). In this condition, the trekker’s brain tissues swell due to leakage of fluids.
HACE includes symptoms like loss of memory, hallucinations, disorientation and weakness. Another severe form of altitude sickness is High-altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) which is caused by fluids that gather into the lungs.
HAPE is manifested by constant vomiting, blurred vision, persistent coughing and irrational behavior. Do not take these symptoms lightly and inform your guide right away.
2. Keep yourself hydrated.
Hydration is a must to keep yourself healthy and moving in the higher regions. You need to keep your body hydrated and replenish lost fluids even before you start trekking at higher altitudes.
The first signs of AMS are similar to dehydration, but whatever the case, continue drinking water. You should start with at least 3 liters of water and increase the intake as you increase the altitude.
3. Take your time in ascending.
Trekking is not a race. It is an experience. The only way to acclimatize your body with altitude as you go up is to ascend slowly. Increase your altitude by only 1,000 feet trek per day after reaching the 8,000 feet mark. Allow your body to acclimatize with altitude by spending the night there. On a typical Everest Base Camp Trek, we acclimatize at Namche Bazaar and Dingboche to prepare your body for higher altitude.
4. Sleep at low altitude.
It may not make sense for you to go down on lower altitude after gaining some, but sleeping on lower altitude helps your body get its much needed acclimatization. And, prepares you up for the next day’s trek.
5. Do wait the symptoms out.
Don’t rush and force yourself to increase altitude if you’re already beginning to feel the symptoms of high altitude sickness. If the symptoms do not improve in the course of 12 hours or if they begins worsening, you need to descend immediately and acclimatize.
6. Come armed with medications.
Mild forms of altitude sickness can easily be managed by medication. Our guides bring these medications in their kits during the trek, but we also urge you to keep them handy as well. You can take ibuprofen for headaches while altitude sickness can generally be treated with acetazolamide and Dexamethasone.
7. Avoid coffee and alcohol before and during the trek.
Coffee and alcohol can be vicious in causing you dehydration and dehydration can inhibit proper acclimatization. Alcohol and other depressant drugs can also decrease the respiratory functions. Plus, it worsen the symptoms of AMS.
8. Consult your doctor before trekking.
Some pre-existing conditions can make trekking at high altitude even more difficult for you. It is best to consult your doctor and discuss your trekking plans with him in order to get medical advice. Please refrain from trekking at high altitude if you are pregnant.
9. Eat right.
Studies show that carbohydrates improve energy and performance. They also help alleviate symptoms of high altitude sickness. Eat plenty of carbohydrates like bread, pasta, and potatoes before and during your trek. Fortunately, you have access to good food during a mountaineering trip in Nepal.
10. Make sure that everyone is properly acclimatized.
You’re likely to be trekking with a group of people and rates of acclimatization can vary per individual. Make sure that everyone has acclimatized properly before moving on to higher ground. If you or any member is exhibiting signs of altitude sickness, inform your guide right away. Do not move up any further until everyone is fit enough to continue the trek.
We at Mosaic Adventure have your best interest at heart. Please note that altitude sickness starts out with mild symptoms, but they can worsen and potentially become life-threatening if not managed properly. Do inform our guides right away if you feel the first signs of altitude sickness.