Altitude sickness Also, referred to as “mountain sickness,” is a group of symptoms that can strike if you walk or climb to a higher elevation, or altitude, too quickly.
Why does Altitude Sickness occur?
Barometric pressure plays a vital role as it is the pressure of air that surrounds us and when one goes to a higher elevation or altitude, this pressure drops which in return makes for less oxygen available.
A person living in a place that is located at a moderately high altitude can get used to the air pressure but if one travels to a place with a higher altitude than what your body is normally used to then it will need time to adjust to change in the air pressure.
What are the types of Altitude Sickness?
There are normally three types of Altitude Sickness and they are as follows:
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is the lightest form and is very common amongst travelers of all age groups. The symptoms can occur in the form of a hangover – dizziness, headache, muscle aches, nausea.
High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) is the formation of fluid in the lungs which can be very dangerous and even life-threatening.
High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) is the most critical form of altitude sickness and occurs when there’s the formation of fluid in the brain. It’s life-threatening and you need to seek medical attention right away as soon as possible.
What are the symptoms of Altitude Sickness?
You might have:
- Fatigue and loss of energy
- Shortness of breath
- Problems with sleep
- Loss of appetite
Symptoms usually take 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.
If it’s a moderate case of altitude sickness, your symptoms might feel more intense and it may not improve with over-the-counter medications. So, instead of feeling better as time passes, one can start to feel worse. One will begin to experience more shortness of breath and fatigue. You may also have:
- Loss of coordination and trouble walking
- A severe headache that doesn’t get better with medication
- A tightening in your chest
If the mild case develops into a severe form of altitude sicknesses like HAPE or HACE, you might have:
- Shortness of breath even at rest
- Inability to walk
- A cough that produces a white or pink frothy substance
Who can suffer from Altitude Sickness?
There is no specification or single age group that can get altitude sickness. So, anyone regardless of age, gender, physical fitness can develop altitude sickness– even Olympic athletes can get it. As it happens that being physically active at a high elevation makes you more likely to get it.
There are various factors that determine your chances of getting altitude sickness: how quickly you scale up to a higher elevation, how high you go up, the altitude where you are sleeping, and other factors. Having certain ailments like diabetes or lung disease doesn’t automatically make you more likely to develop altitude sickness. Genes can play a vital role in your body’s ability to handle higher elevations.
How to Prevent Altitude Sickness?
Altitude sickness is caused by ascending too quickly. It is wise to climb slower to prevent it. As, it is very common on most of the treks and can happen to anybody, irrespective of how old or fit you are or if you have previous trekking experience. So, here are some ways to prevent Altitude Sickness:
- Hydration– Drink plenty of water, it’s very important to stay hydrated.
- Trekking Pace– Walk at your own pace, take your time, don’t go too fast.
- Eat carbs– It’s not often we’re told to eat extra carbohydrates but when you’re at higher altitudes, you need more calories.
- Avoid Alcohol– Alcohol, cigarettes, and medications like sleeping pills can make altitude sickness symptoms worse. So, avoid it.
- Medication– Taking acetazolamide(Diamox)two days before the trip and during your trip can help prevent altitude sickness. Acetazolamide is a medication typically used to treat glaucoma. But it is also used to prevent altitude sickness.
How to prepare yourself for Trekking To A Higher Elevation?
It is very important to be fully prepared before undertaking any trips or going on a long journey.
It is vital for any traveler or trekker to always have a list of important prerequisites with them at all times. Here is the list of things one needs to consider while going on a trek.
Physical Condition and Preparation:
It is very important that one should be of sound health before undertaking any kind of trek. Most treks are suitable for passionate walkers who have the ability to walk at least 6-7 hours a day with a light rucksack. It’s not necessary that the trek is going to be 6-7 hours a day sometimes it might even be 7-8 hours. Walking in higher altitudes is more physically demanding than walking in the lower altitudes; however, if we are in excellent health with average physical fitness, have a positive attitude and strong determination, we can accomplish the trek successfully. Exercising and jogging regularly is a good idea to enhance our strength and stability. If one has past experiences with hiking then that would be an asset but no technical skills are required for this trip. Also, we advise you to consult with your doctor(s) before undertaking the trip.
I hope this Information regarding the Altitude Sickness Prevention and Preparation gives you useful insights on how to prepare oneself for the trek to the beautiful, magnificent and aspiring regions of Nepal or any other country. So if the above-mentioned things are taken into proper consideration than you will have a wonderful time trekking in the most spectacular region. Take all the precautions and there’s no way you are not going to have a wonderful time.
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