Sometimes called “mountain sickness,” an altitude sickness is a group of symptoms that can strike if you walk or climb to a higher elevation, or altitude, too quickly. The pressure of the air that surrounds you is called barometric pressure. When you climb to high altitudes, this pressure drops and there is less oxygen available.
If you live in a place that’s located at a moderately high altitude, you get used to the air pressure. But if you are climbing to the higher altitude than you are used to, your body will need time to adjust to the change in pressure.
Any time you go above 8,000 feet, you can be at risk for altitude sickness.
Types and Symptoms
There are three kinds of altitude sickness:
Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is a common illness that affects a significant proportion of people that ascend to high altitude. The symptoms are a headache and fatigue, sleep disturbance, problems with the digestive system and dizziness. Symptoms usually come on within 12 to 24 hours of reaching a higher elevation and then get better within a day or two as your body adjusts to the change in altitude.
For the majority of sufferers, AMS remains no more than an inconvenience. However, for a significant minority, AMS can develop into one of two potentially fatal conditions: High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) when there is a buildup of fluid in the lungs that can be very dangerous and even life threatening or High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE). (HACE) is the most severe form of altitude sickness and happens when there’s fluid in the brain. It’s life threatening and you need to seek medical attention right away. These conditions both require immediate attention.
Sufferers of HAPE develop breathlessness at rest and may develop blue lips and a raised body temperature. HACE often presents initially with a severe headache, vomiting, and lethargy. These potentially fatal conditions can be prevented if a pragmatic golden rules approach is taken.
Acclimatization treks are the only thing that has been proven to protect against AMS on Kilimanjaro. Climbers looking for the best chance of avoiding altitude sickness can acclimatize on the conveniently located Mount Meru (4566m). This approach also gives you the best chance of success on the summit attempt of Mount Kilimanjaro. Climbers are often reassured by locals that the slower ascent rates offered by several of the ascent routes provide protection from AMS development. However, there is no evidence that any of these routes are slow enough to confer protection. In addition, the ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro is so rapid that climbers should not assume that acetazolamide (Diamox) can protect them from developing Acute Mountain Sickness.
Who Gets It?
Anyone can develop altitude sickness, no matter how fit, young, or healthy they are even Olympic athletes can get it. In fact, being physically active at a high elevation makes you more likely to get it.
Your chance of getting altitude sickness depends on a few other things: how quickly you move to a higher elevation, how high you go up, the altitude where you sleep, and other factors.
Your risk also depends on where you live and the altitude there, your age (young people are more likely to get it), and whether you’ve had altitude sickness before.
Having certain illnesses like diabetes or lung disease doesn’t automatically make you more likely to develop altitude sickness. But your genes could play a role in your body’s ability to handle higher elevations.
How you can Avoid avoiding altitude sickness
- Take a pre-acclimatization climb at Mt. Meru.
- Choose your friendly health Mt. Kilimanjaro route.
- Careful plan your work itinerary and take acclimatization day on Kilimanjaro.
- Follow your guide trail and advice.
- Walk as slowly as possible when climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.
- Eat well but not too much.
- Drink water every few minutes to stay hydrated.
- Wear your cloth properly depend on your condition. (Read our guideline)
- Do not put do much weigh on your daypack. (Read our guideline)
- Take Diamox 125mg twice a day only if it works for you. (Read our guideline)
How you can treat altitude sickness
Descent is the most effective way to treat altitude sickness. Depending on your condition, the guide can use normal descending (by foot), KINAPA unicycle cum device or helicopter may be used. Diamox, Oxygen, and Gamow hyperbaric bag treatment usually used to reverse the altitude sickness symptoms.