Altitude sickness or Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is the negative health effect of high altitude, caused by rapid exposure to low amounts of oxygen at high elevation. Symptoms may include headaches, vomiting, tiredness, trouble sleeping, breathing problem and dizziness.
Travellers with pre-existing heart or lung or other problems should seek for doctor's advice before booking the trip. It is always advisable to drink at least 3 litres of water every day while on the tour.
In order to prevent altitude sickness among travelers, we reserve extra days as acclimatization days in our entire trekking and travelling schedule having higher altitude region such that one can acclimatize with higher altitude environment and risk of altitude sickness is lower. The adaptation to the local environment can be obtained by spending much time at higher altitude areas, short walk, hike and excursion with few ups and downs as to acclimatize in higher altitude of above 3000 meters.
Symptoms of High Altitude Sickness:
Rather than one or two, usually a group of symptoms begin to appear as a person gains altitude. These symptoms vary in intensity as per elevations and also depend on the individual experiencing them. The principal symptoms that accompany the onset of altitude sickness are:
- Irregular breathing(particularly at night),
- Fluid retention [oedema] particularly around the eyes or fingers depending on the degree of altitude sickness,
- Dry cough,
- Mild nausea,
- Loss of appetite,
- Ataxia or loss of co-ordination
- Severe breathlessness at rest.
If the symptoms are of mild annoyance then you should rest until they subside. If the symptoms become more severe or do not disappear after a night's sleep, then you should descend until you feel well.
The basic treatment for severe altitude sickness is immediate descent; altitude sickness can progress rapidly once it becomes serious. The person afflicted should be taken down between 1000 to 3,000ft. [300 to 450m]. The drug acetazolamide [diamox] has been used for assisting in acclimatization. Some reports indicate that the drug might be useful in treating the early stages of altitude sickness in addition to its prevention use. It has been shown that people who had headaches, nausea and felt unwell improved considerably within 30 minutes of taking the tablets. The adult dosage is one 250 mg tablet twice a day. The most irritating side effect is a tingling sensation which can occur at any site and without warning. The dose can be reduced to 250 mg per day.
It is recommended that the drug is started on the morning of ascent above 10000ft/3000m and to be continued until descent or the person feels acclimatized. If you decide to take acetazolamide, please inform your guide / group leader. It should not be taken by people who are allergic to sulphur drugs. All of our treks are based on experience and are planned to gain height gradually, with days allowed for rest and acclimatization. Prevention is simple; make a slow and gradual ascent and allow sufficient rest at intermediate altitudes.