Altitude SicknessAlmost anyone can travel to a height of 5,000 feet to 6,500 feet without facing any problem. The problem of mountain sickness arises when you start going to the higher mountains, especially above 8,000 feet (2,400 meters). This is because, at high-level altitudes, the atmospheric pressure is reduced and good oxygen level is a luxury!
When you climb slowly at higher levels, the body has time to get adapted to the climatic conditions, but if you climb faster, the chances of getting mountain illness are higher. Also, if you live at sea level, the chances of facing difficulty is more.
SymptomsWhile climbing at high altitudes, the problems may vary from mild to life-threatening conditions. It mostly depends on how fast you're climbing or how hard are you exerting yourself.
Moderate AMS symptoms
Fatigue, Headache, nosebleed, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, dizziness and rapid heartbeat or pulse.
Severe AMS Symptoms
Congestion, cough, the problem in walking, blue skin colour, coughing up blood.
It is a condition which occurs when the pressure in our lungs increases and there is a chance of rupturing of arteries which may lead to death. It also occurs due to water in lungs. This results in restless breathing, even at rest. Extreme fatigue, blood or froth in a cough, shallow breaths are other symptoms of this condition.
High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE)
It is a similar condition in the brain when there is extra pressure or leakage of fluid in the brain, the cerebral membrane swells. It is a dangerous situation as it leads to confusion, loss of coordination and ability to think, stumbling. The person may not have enough time to react and he might die in short period.
Altitude Sickness MedicationIt's rather difficult to get proper medication or treatment at high altitude regions. But sometimes, steps need to be taken to prevent any danger. In such conditions, early diagnosis is essential. If the problem is diagnosed at early stage, it is easier to deal with. Also, do not go any higher! Continuing to travel at higher altitudes might make the situation worse. Oxygen can also be provided.
- Acetazolamide (also known as Diamox) is the most recommended medicine for prevention and treatment of mountain sickness. It helps you breathe better. Another drug is ibuprofen to reduce headaches at high altitudes. But this pain reliever is not recommended for stage 2.
- Headache-relieving medicines, if taken at an earlier stage, will hide the symptoms and make it worse. Dexamethasone (Decadron) reduces swelling in the brain. It is a steroid and has to be only popped in severe conditions.
- Domestic ways of treatment include tea, ginger capsules, anise, etc. These can help reduce motion sickness and stomach nausea.
Acclimatisation tips to get over high altitude or mountain sicknessIf you're very keen on travelling to higher peaks, you need to follow some basic rules. These will help you to adapt to the climatic conditions better and have fun without trouble.
1. Climb slowly, get accustomed
When you start travelling to an elevated region, make sure you take rests in between. Covering large height in less time can build motion sickness and nausea. And when you reach new heights, make sure you do not exert pressure on your body like by doing exercises, etc. Ideal rate of ascent that is recommended to prevent AMS is 400-500 meters per day. After this limit, the probability of getting AMS symptoms are higher.
2. Drink A LOT of water
This is because of one simple reason. When you oxygen levels are decreasing, you try to breathe fast and deep. This dehydrates your body. So drink extra water whenever possible.
3. No Alcohol & No Smoking
The reason is similar to this too if you're asking for one. Dehydration! Smoking and alcohol consumption can worsen the conditions and make it difficult for you to breathe.
4. Complex Carbohydrates to the Rescue
Get more complex carbohydrates in your food, as they will maintain your energy levels to optimum and help you in efficient use of oxygen. Well, that should be good news for many because of no strict diet here. Eat fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes.
5. You should know when you're in danger
It's essential that you're aware of what changes your body is going through and what should be prevented. Keep monitoring oxygen levels on a regular basis. Symptoms like a headache, nosebleed, nausea and breathlessness are quite common at initial levels. If any of these symptoms start showing, stop! Acclimatise first and then move.
6. Fill your stock before
Your stock should be full of preventive and remedial measures. Especially when you're in for more than 8,000 feet. You should carry headache relief medicines and some other domestic remedies. And if you're going much higher, carry sufficient oxygen with you. Take iron supplements, carbohydrate sources and plenty of water.
7. Go to a doctor, if available
You shouldn't avoid going to a doctor if above measures don't work. Mountain sickness can be, at times, life-threatening. But there's little chance that doctor would be available to you. Keep your trek guide informed if there is anything wrong. And when the situation is critical, climbing down for further treatment is the best option.
8. Basic physical fitness is required for going to places with high altitudes. So EXERCISE!
So, you see, nature is no easy bargain. Mountains can be gorgeous but sometimes full of headaches (literally). There's no problem for the healthy ones. But for some people, this problem can create more resistance than one can imagine. But need not worry, just go by the rules, and you'll enjoy nature without any prolonged annoyance.