Altitude sickness is one of the most common problems that most 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 the Everest base camp trek. Everyone is likely susceptible to high altitude sickness, it is the 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 & decrease 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 a higher altitude without acclimatization leads to a serious risk of life-threatening illness.
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:-
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:-
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 of 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 an emergency as soon as possible.
Here are some of the things you can apply to prevent yourself from high altitude sickness:
A normal human body needs at least 2-3 days to adjust to a new altitude which is why you should take in slow while trekking to a higher elevation. Avoid flying or driving directions to a 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 the higher altitude.
You should avoid drinking alcohol & smoking cigarettes while travelling to a 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 to a higher altitude.
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.
Taking rest while climbing to higher elevations is another important fact you should consider. You should have several rest days during your trek to a higher elevation. Trekking to higher elevations without taking rest is one of the main causes 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.