Altitude sickness is one of the most common problems that most of the trekkers face during their trek to Everest Base Camp Trek. One needs to know about this life-threatening problem that may occur during their trek. It’s important to learn about the causes, symptoms & preventive measures of high altitude sickness before you begin your journey to Everest base camp trek. Everyone is likely susceptible to high altitude sickness, it is same to both fit & unfit so, the best way to assure your safety is to learn about it before you embark on your journey.
Causes of High Altitude sickness
The main cause of high altitude sickness is ascending to a great height rapidly or staying at a high place for too long. At sea level, the atmospheric concentration of oxygen is approximately 21 per cent and the barometric pressure averages 760 millimetres of mercury (mmHg). Higher altitudes do not change the atmospheric oxygen concentration. However, the number of oxygen molecules per breath decreases. A human body needs to adjust to lower air pressure & decreased the level of oxygen which is why acclimatization or gradual profession is needed. An average human body needs at least 1-3 days to adopt the new altitude. Climbing to higher altitude without acclimatization leads toa serious risk of life-threatening illness.
Symptoms of High Altitude sickness
The symptoms usually depend on various factors like age, fitness level, the shape of the person or the time spent at the altitude & climbing speed of a person. However, the primary symptoms of High altitude sickness are given below:-
- lack of appetite, nausea, or vomiting
- exhaustion or weakness
- pins and needles
- shortness of breath upon exertion
- feeling sleepy
- general malaise
- swelling of the hands, feet, and face
If the high altitude sickness is left untreated then, it may lead to High Altitude Cerebral Oedema (HACE) or High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE). Once HACE or HAPE develops death is possible within hours unless the trekker is immediately taken to a lower elevation. The following symptoms represent that the person has more serious altitude sickness:-
- constant dry cough often with pinkish sputum
- a constant headache that doesn’t respond to any painkillers.
- increased vomiting
- gradual loss of consciousness
Treatment & Preventive measures of High Altitude Sickness
The initial treatment of high altitude sickness is descending to a lower altitude as quickly as possible. One of the most common medications used to treat & prevent High altitude sickness is Diamox. This can be easily purchased anywhere in Kathmandu. This medication helps to treat the onset primary symptoms but if the person starts to show the symptoms of HACE or HAPE then, he/she should be immediately taken to lower altitude & sent to emergency as soon as possible.
Here are some of the things you can apply to prevent yourself from high altitude sickness;-
- Climb slowly
A normal human body needs at least 2-3 days to adjust to new altitude which is why you should take in slow while trekking to a higher elevation. Avoid flying or driving directions to the higher elevation. If you have to fly or drive then, stay at a lower altitude for at least 24 hours before going all the way up. While travelling on foot, you should plan your trip in such a way that you’ll have at least 1 day acclimatization day before climbing to higher altitude.
- Avoid alcohol & smoking
You should avoid drinking alcohol & smoking cigarettes while travelling to higher altitude. Drinking alcohol & smoking cigarettes can make your altitude sickness symptoms worse. Even if you want to drink, you should wait at least 48 hours to give your body time to adjust in higher altitude.
- Drink plenty of Water
One of the most effective & important preventive measures of Higher altitude sickness is to drink plenty of water. You should stay hydrated while climbing to keep your body away from symptoms of High altitude sickness.
- Take rest
Taking rest while climbing to higher elevation is another important fact you should consider. You should have several rest days during your trek to a higher elevation. Trekking to higher elevation without taking rest is one of the main cause of high altitude sickness.
Do not forget to carry your daily medications with you if you have any & you should also carry Diamox with you which helps to prevent you from onset primary symptoms.