How to combat Altitude Sickness?

Altitude sickness is the major problem when you are trekking in Nepal. It occurs when travels or trekker has been unable to adaptive to place to place where they have climbed.  As altitude increases, the level of oxygen decreases (only half of oxygen is noted above 5000m such like in our Everest Base Camp Trek and Annapurna Circuit Trek).

During the trekking, trekkers will feel that their breathing increases with decrease in oxygen. If they continue trekking without taking a rest, they might be victim of Altitude Sickness. Altitude Sickness happens when fluid collects in cell around the body as the result of failure to acclimatize. More deadly result can be happen when fluid builds subsequently in the lungs and brain.

Acute Mountain Sickness Symptoms

Following are the symptoms for acute mountain sickness that you should expect during your trekking in Nepal. Most of the trekkers will experience some or all of the given symptoms, no matter how slow they climb:

  • Periods of sleeplessness.
  • Need more sleep than normal often 10 hrs or more.
  • Occasionally loss of appetite.
  • Vivid, wild dreams at around 2500 – 3800 meters in altitude.
  • Periodic breathings.
  • Need to rest your breath frequently while trekking above 3500 meters.
  • Runny nose.
  • Dizziness and increase in urination while moving to higher altitudes (this is good sign).

Useful Tips

If somehow you suffered from Altitude Sickness, then it is necessary for you to stop trekking and take a time to acclimatize your body. If you still did not recover with Altitude Sickness after taking long rest, you must need to visit local medical post or return back to Kathmandu with emergency rescue services. So it is recommended having adequate travel insurance during your trip to Nepal. This are the recommended steps:

  1. Recognize the early symptoms of altitude sickness when you have them, and note that you might be the only person suffering with Altitude sickness in a group.
  2. Never ascend to the new altitude for rest when you have symptoms of Altitude Sickness.
  3. Descend to the lower altitude, if you are getting worse with the Altitude Sickness at the same altitude.

Prevention of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)

  • Allow sufficient time for acclimatization above 3000 meters.
  • Never make rapid climb
  • Never use alcohol, sleeping pills and smoke
  • Drink as much possible fluids at least 3-4 liters a day, clean water-boiled or tea, coffee, soup, juice etc.
  • Try to be in group while trekking and take guide or porters along with.
  • Always follow the advice from guide, hotel, local people and guide book.
  • Descent if mild symptoms getting worse
  • Avoid getting cold.
  • Take easy and comfortable trekking routes

First Aids Kit

Following are the essential ailments that afflict trekkers. These things are necessary to carry along with while trekking to higher altitude zone. Trekking with groups, expeditions and trekking to isolated area will require more comprehensive kit.

  • Bandage for sprains
  • Plasters/Band aids
  • Iodine capsules (Optional)
  • Aspirins/Paracetamol
  • Anti-bacterial throat lozenges with antiseptic
  • Moleskin/Second skin
  • Antibiotic for diarrhea
  • Oral rehydration salts (norfloxacin or ciprofloxin)
  • Diamox 250/500 mg
  • Gel hand cleaner

Medicines & Treatments

Diamox is generally useful for mild to moderate AMS.

Dosage: One 250 mg tablet two or three times a day

Dexamethasone is a very potent steroid used in HACE temporarily to facilitate descent. This drug improves the symptoms but does not help acclimatization. It is not recommended to ascend while still taking this drug even if one is symptom free.

Dosage: 4 mg every 6 hours.

Nifedipine is useful in HAPE by lowering pressure in the pulmonary blood vessels and thereby decreasing fluid in the lungs. This drug also lowers blood pressure. Sildenafil (Viagra) is increasingly being used in treating HAPE.

Oxygen is very useful particularly for HAPE.

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