A lot of hard work and struggle lies behind the successful conquering of the Everest Base Camp Trek or any other trekking for that matter.
Different people have different experiences and each one of them is quite exciting. Some of them are saddening as well.
While trekking to EBC, a lot of people suffer from a lot of health issues and challenges. One of the most fatal and common medical conditions is Altitude Sickness.
Many of our clients ask us, “How to prevent altitude sickness on Everest Base Camp trek?”
We often hear devastating news about trekkers suffering from altitude sickness. Some return in the middle of their journey and others even lose their lives. So far, we haven’t had such harsh incidents but prevention is always better than cure.
The Himalayas may be majestic grand. But, it is equally important to realize the dangers and challenges that trekkers have to face. And, most importantly find ways to fight them in the Everest Base Camp Tour.
Table of Contents
- What is Altitude Sickness?
- How and when will I know if I’m suffering from Altitude Sickness?
- Types of Altitude Sickness
- How to Prevent Altitude Sickness on Everest Base Camp Trek?
- ● Do your research
- ● Walk at a Slow Pace in a Slow and Steady Pattern
- ● Climb High at Day and Sleep at Low Altitude
- ● Train your Body and Strengthen up before Trekking
- ● Drink Water and Fluids. Stay Hydrated
- ● Do not Drink Alcohol and Smoke
- ● Do not Overestimate Yourself and NEVER Lie
- ● Take Medications and Other Medical Precautions
- ● Try Consuming Cocoa (Dark Chocolate)
- ● Choose the Right Traveling Agency
What is Altitude Sickness?
Altitude sickness is a pathological condition at high elevation on the human body that ranges from having mild symptoms to being fatal. The condition is also known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) and hypobaropathy.
The altitude sickness generally affects people from the elevation of 2400 meters above sea level. This is where the terrain has 60% less oxygen than the sea level.
When trekkers ascend the trails, the environment changes. The cold, sun, wind, and low oxygen level makes their trekking more challenging.
Their body starts suffering from weakness. They start to have dizziness, giddiness, nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite, insomnia, and shortness of breath. Sometimes, the trekkers even lose their lives if not treated in time.
Lack of knowledge of trekking and the area, habit of overestimating their own ability, ignorance, lack of proper professional guide and medical assistance team are the main reasons why people suffer from altitude sickness. It can affect people of any age, sex, physical and medical conditions.
How and when will I know if I’m suffering from Altitude Sickness?
Tolerance of a human being differs from one another. So, most of the trekkers will not suffer from altitude sickness but the weak ones who exercise less and have health problems may suffer from it. Normally, when trekkers reach 2800 meters above sea level, they start suffering from this sickness.
Having said that, some of the trekkers might see the effects as soon as they ascend while others may get the symptoms in around 5 to 7 hours only. Most of the people feel the symptoms during or after a night’s sleep in those altitudes. Some of the main and first signs and symptoms detected are:
- A headache
- Lack of coordination
- Loss of appetite
- Swelling of hands and feet
- Excessive flatulence
The above-mentioned signs and symptoms are the initial phase of altitude sickness. If these conditions are ignored and immediate medical care is not provided, the trekker’s condition might get worse. Some worse signs and symptoms include:
- Irrational behavior and depression
- Lack of performance (no walking coordination)
- Heart palpitations
- Coughing with frothy or bloody sputum
This is when you need immediate medical attention and probably need help via air (helicopter rescue). It is strongly advised not to continue trekking when you have the initial symptoms and to acclimatize before 2800 meters.
Types of Altitude Sickness
If you insist on carrying on the journey, you will most certainly suffer from conditions like “AMS”, “HAPE” and “HACE”.
AMS (Acute Motion Sickness)
AMS (Acute Motion Sickness) is a condition where one part of your balance-sensing system (inner ears, eyes, and sensory nerves) senses that your body is moving but the other parts are not. The trekkers suffering from such a condition should descend to a certain height as soon as possible. This will cure this sickness to some extent.
Level: Acute Altitude Sickness
HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema)
HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) is a condition where your lungs are filled with fluid. As you try to breathe, due to dehydration and by releasing water from the lungs, the lungs get filled with fluids. This condition can be cured if you descend immediately, rest and get emergency medical attention and care.
Level: Moderate Altitude Sickness
HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema)
HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema) is the condition where your brain gets a lower level of oxygen and there is an accumulation of blood in the brain. The first symptom shows trekkers becoming uncoordinated.
And if it is not treated in time the person can slowly go to coma and even lose their lives. Immediate medical attention is advised and the person suffering from the sickness should descend immediately.
Level: Severe Altitude Sickness
How to Prevent Altitude Sickness on Everest Base Camp Trek?
● Do your research
The first most important thing you need to do is to gather information about the trek. You focus mainly on tips and tricks related to high altitude trekking.
Do proper research and gain information about the place, people, challenges and dangers of the trip as much as possible. Most people underestimate the Everest Base Camp trek as a normal trekking. But, you need to keep in mind that this trek reaches an altitude of 5500 meters above sea level.
So, you are likely to get altitude sickness if you aren’t ready for the trek. EBC trek is a very challenging trek and the oxygen levels at different points in the trail vary at different times and circumstances.
The colder months are more vicious than the warm ones. The level of coldness and snowstorms may hit unexpectedly. Even the most experienced guides and trekkers seem to get the sickness if they aren’t prepared.
To collect enough information on this problem you can consult your doctor or visit websites, blogs, forums, travel agencies, and other sources. This is a problem never to be undermined during your high altitude trekkings.
● Walk at a Slow Pace in a Slow and Steady Pattern
Most of the people suffer from altitude sickness as they get hasty and try to finish their expedition as fast as possible.
You should never ignore the guidelines and overestimate your capabilities when it comes to EBC or any other treks. If you hurry, your body becomes restless. This will not let you get enough time and energy for your body to cope with the low oxygen levels and your body will dehydrate soon.
Our itinerary has been calculated timely with a lot of research. So, if you follow our guide and medical advice, you will most probably not get the sickness.
Don’t worry if your pace is slow or you are at the last place in the trekking. One of our porter or assistant guide will always stay back at the end to let you complete your trekking.
● Climb High at Day and Sleep at Low Altitude
Altitude Sickness mostly occurs while you are sleeping. If you walk quickly, it is most likely that you’d get a good night’s sleep. But in high altitudes, the situation may vary.
Your body starts to slow down and you will have breathing problems. The symptoms of altitude sickness will show up while sleeping and sometimes after you wake up from your sleep.
This effect can be controlled if you climb up to a higher altitude at daytime and then descend to a lower altitude for a good night’s sleep. After you reach 3000 meters of altitude, it is advised not to increase sleep elevation more than 300 meters to 500 meters each day.
● Train your Body and Strengthen up before Trekking
A normal healthy person at sea level who can walk in plain terrain can have a hard time trying to climb the steep terrain. Plus, there is the chance of bad weather at a high altitude with a low level of oxygen.
Altitude sickness mostly occurs in a person who has weak physical and medical conditions. It can occur in any age group and even a normal healthy person can suffer. So, it is strongly advised to do physical training before deciding to go to Everest Base Camp trekking or any other high altitude trekking.
The exercise should include running and walking to hilly areas to make your legs and body physique stronger. It is also to train your heart to breathe normally even in low oxygen levels and thin air.
● Drink Water and Fluids. Stay Hydrated
The cold surroundings and the high altitude trekking will make you less thirsty. You will not feel like drinking but deep inside, your body will have dehydrated more and more.
The long hours of trekking in such high elevation will drain and dehydrate it. So, you need to stay as much hydrated as possible and drink water or other healthy drinks continuously on each break.
Doctors suggest to drink up to 5 liters of water every day to maintain the normal body condition in most of the trekking events.
● Do not Drink Alcohol and Smoke
You should never smoke nor drink alcoholic beverages while hiking at high altitude areas. The main reason is due to low oxygen level at high elevations.
The risks of drinking alcohol and smoking are always there even in the normal conditions. But, if you try to do so in the high elevation, you are likely to have even worse effects.
Your body will dehydrate quickly and you will have a hard time breathing. Your metabolic rates will be affected too and you will get weaker. In some cases, you can even collapse.
So, it is better to say no to alcohol and smoking while trekking.
● Do not Overestimate Yourself and NEVER Lie
Usually what happens is the trekkers who have trained hard and are ready with everything gets hyped up. So, they tend to overestimate themselves and forget where they stand.
They tend to ignore the minor altitude sickness and continue their journey to get to the destination point before time. That’s when the altitude sickness gets them badly.
You should never overestimate your power and strengths as if you burn your body more, you will get weaker in the evening and nights. If you are suffering from the early signs and symptoms of this sickness, you should immediately inform your team or the guide and take necessary preventive measures.
Some people have a habit of lying and hiding their condition thinking it will affect the group’s trekking and keep on continuing the journey. This will only make the things worse at a higher level where help comes pretty late.
Some people also tend to become shy and hide their conditions thinking they are weaker than the rest of the group member and keep quiet.
So either way, lying about your condition is not going to help your team or yourself. So, lying about your condition is not going to help your team or yourself. You should immediately consult the guide, the medical team or your team member. They will take the necessary steps to resolve your sickness.
Never push your limits and lie about your condition.
There is always the next time to trek but there will never be the next life.
● Take Medications and Other Medical Precautions
Taking medicines like Diamox (Acetazolamide) will prevent altitude sickness to some extent. They work great in speeding up the acclimatization process. But it is only possible if you take the medication with right dosage at the right time.
So, it is strictly advised to take such medication under the prescription of your own physician only.
● Try Consuming Cocoa (Dark Chocolate)
Though it is not proven, many of the Native American trekkers have sent us a feedback that consumption of dark chocolate at high altitude treks have helped them prevent altitude sickness.
So, you can take these on your trips and other energy bars with you if it helps. Having said that, do remember to stay hydrated as mentioned in earlier point and drink water whenever you take a rest.
● Choose the Right Traveling Agency
As mentioned in the first topic about gathering information, choosing the right traveling agency can also help you prevent altitude sickness on Everest Base Camp trek. There are a lot of agencies that arrange treks to Everest base camp and most of them claim themselves to be the best.
Do your research and find out more about their services, itinerary, medical insurance, and other details before booking one. Never go for quick itineraries. As without the right acclimatization, there are far more risks of having high altitude sickness.
We have researched and taken a lot of treks to Everest Base Camp. So, we can proudly say that we have not faced any fatal injuries in our treks as all our itineraries have been prepared by experienced team members.
You can contact us for more information about how to prevent altitude sickness on Everest base camp trek or any other queries.