Altitude Sickness and How to Get Rid of It
High Altitude Sickness, also known as “Acute Mountain Sickness” or “AMS,” is a condition that happens by a deficiency of oxygen at a high altitude. Mountain sickness is another name for it. It is not possible to determine in advance who might experience symptoms of altitude sickness. Because it is possible for anyone to be impacted, we are unable to determine who will be affected based on characteristics such as gender, age, or even level of physical fitness, because it can happen to anyone. Symptoms almost never become apparent at altitudes lower than 2500 meters (8202 ft.)
In fact, at an altitude of 2000 meters, small problems like shortness of breath could happen. Mountain sickness, on the other hand, occurs when we abruptly ascend to a high height exceeding 2500 m. Thousands of people have died as a result of a lack of awareness. It is not a fatal illness that can strike anyone. However, you should take precautions when ascending above 2500 meters. It is fairly simple to prevent, as we will discuss later.
If you go to a different altitude too rapidly, you may suffer from altitude sickness. Because you can’t inhale much oxygen, breathing becomes difficult. If not treated for altitude sickness on time, commonly known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), it can bring you into a medical emergency. You can suffer from altitude sickness no matter how old you are, what gender you are, or how fit are you. Also, if you haven’t had it before, that doesn’t mean you will not get it on another adventure.
Altitude Sickness Symptoms
Altitude sickness usually starts 6 to 24 hours after getting to a height of more than 2,500 meters above sea level. The symptoms are comparable to those of a terrible hangover and include the following:
- Painful headaches
- Being ill and feeling unwell
- Loss of appetite
- Breathing problems
The body signs and symptoms are frequently more severe at night.
Mountain climbers aren’t the only ones who get altitude sickness. Tourists traveling to lower popular trekking routes such as Poon Hill Trek (3200 M) or Mohare Danda Trek (3300 M) in Nepal also can get altitude sickness. It is all determined according to the type of destination and the pace of your walk in the mountains.
But the altitude in the lower Terai is not very high, it is impossible to suffer from altitude sickness in places like Kathmandu, Pokhara, Chitwan, Lumbini, Palpa, and so on.
Altitude Sickness Prevention
Traveling carefully to altitudes above 2,500 meters is the best approach to avoiding altitude sickness. Your body usually needs a few days to get used to and acclimatize to the altitude.
You should also consider:
- If you can, try not to fly straight to the areas of a high altitude.
- Allow two to three days to acclimate to high elevations before venturing above 2,500 meters.
- Keep your daily ascents to 300-500 meters.
- Take a day off for every 600 to 900 meters you climb or every three to four days.
- Make sure you’re getting enough water.
- Give up smoking and alcohol.
- Refrain from engaging in vigorous physical activity for the first twenty-four hours.
- consume a high-calorie, low-carbohydrate diet
How can you get rid of altitude sickness in Nepal?
It’s important to remember that there are no special health requirements for entering Nepal. As a result, before trekking in Nepal’s high altitudes, consult your doctor. Nepal has many mountains. Various trekking paths are available at each mountain base camp.
Altitude sickness can be classified into three different types: AMS, HAPE, and HACE. AMS is common at only a few elevation levels, according to medical professionals. HAPE and HACE, on the other hand, are tested at the critical level, which happens at higher altitudes.
Before we get into detail, we need to know the altitude. The true elevation is computed from sea level. Every country on the planet has a distinct geographical structure, as we all know. The earth’s height varies from sea level to 8848.87 meters (the highest point on the planet – Mt. Everest in Nepal). For this topic, we can divide altitude into three levels.
- One Level – Altitudes range from 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) to 3,500 meters (11,500 feet).
- Two Level – Altitude level between 3,500 m (11,500 ft.) and 5,500 m (14,500 ft.)
- Three Level – Over a height of 5,500 meters (18,000 feet).
Above an altitude of 8000 meters, the risky level begins. Many mountaineers utilize oxygen cylinders to climb Mt. Everest’s 8848.87-meter peak (29,031.7 ft). Its height is higher than the limit, which goes up to the lowermost part of the atmosphere, named the troposphere (The lowest layer of the atmosphere, stretching from the earth’s surface to a height of roughly 6–10 kilometers, is known as the troposphere).
Here are some of Nepal’s most famous trekking routes where AMS is a possibility-
- Langtang Region Trek
- Annapurna Region Trek
- Everest Region Trek
- Dolpa Treks
- Manaslu Region Trek
- Makalu Base Camp Trek
- Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek
- And all other off the beaten Treks
How can you avoid altitude sickness?
Before taking precautions or preventive actions, it’s critical to understand HAPE and HACE. Do remember that above 2000 M, you may become frightened mentally. Don’t be worried; instead, keep in a good mood and keep moving forward.
1. High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)
An accumulation of fluid in the lungs, known as HAPE, can be extremely hazardous and even fatal. The most prevalent medical evidence of altitude sickness is heart failure.
HAPE Signs and Symptoms
- A blue sign on the skin or lips
- Difficulty breathing even when resting
- Chest constrictions
- A respiratory infection is accompanied by the generation of frothy pink or white fluids (sputum).
- Fatigue and weakness
HAPE symptoms might occur as soon as arriving at a high elevation. If not treated right away, it can be incurable.
- Immediately go down to a lower elevation.
- Utilize nifedipine.
- Provide bottled oxygen if it is accessible.
Nifedipine is a medication that helps to relieve chest pain and improve breathing. It’s also frequently included in medical supplies on expeditions.
2. High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE)
When there is fluid in the brain, HACE is the extreme form of altitude sickness. It’s also life-threatening, so seek medical help immediately if possible.
HACE Signs and Symptoms
- Severe headaches
- Being unwell and experiencing it
- Coordination problems
- Being confused
- Visual and auditory illusions (Lack of awareness of sighted or hearing things)
An individual with HACE can become unaware that they are ill. They may claim that everything is OK and that they should be left alone.
HACE can manifest itself in a few hours. If not treated right away, it can be lethal.
- Immediately descend to a lower elevation.
- Dexamethasone should be given.
- Make available bottled oxygen if it is obtainable.
Dexamethasone is a steroid medication that helps to minimize brain swelling. Professional mountain climbers frequently carry it as part of their medicinal gear.
If you are unable to go down quickly, the use of dexamethasone can assist in relieving discomfort until it is safe for you to do so. You must proceed to the hospital for further treatment as soon as feasible.
Consider bringing this altitude sickness treatment with you to Nepal.
- Acetazolamide is a medicine used to prevent and treat altitude sickness.
- Paracetamol and Ibuprofen for headaches.
- For nausea, anti-sickness drugs such as promethazine are used.
Promethazine can be found at pharmacies. It is not necessary to get a prescription in order to purchase it.
Start taking acetazolamide one to two days before you go higher in altitude, and keep taking it as you go higher.
You should still gradually increase your elevation and observe the precautions, such as letting your body acclimate, getting proper rest, and drinking a lot of water.
While taking acetazolamide, if you begin to experience the warning sign of altitude illness, you should wait until you feel better before onwards to a high elevation.
Please seek advice from your medical doctor before consuming any of these drugs. Some medications may cause hypersensitivity in your body as a side effect. As a result, it’s important to follow your doctor’s recommendations.
Pulmonary & Cerebral Edema Prevention: If the symptoms seem to be thoughtful, the best strategy to prevent getting sick while trekking on the mountain trail in Nepal is to visit the doctor as soon as possible and take the medication that has been prescribed by the doctor for you to take. During the hiking portion of your trip, if you are on a guided trip, your knowledgeable tour guides or leaders will be there with a first-aid kit at all times. Even if you are going on a trek with a reputable operator, it is best to have your own particular first-aid kit with you at all times.
The Initial Treatment for Altitude Illness
If you’re suffering from altitude sickness –
- Take a short break and rest in your current location.
- Don’t go up high for at least 1 day to 2 days.
- If you have a painful headache, take paracetamol.
- If you become ill, even you can take paracetamol or anti-sickness medicine – promethazine.
- Make sure you’re consuming enough water.
- Stop smoking, drinking alcohol, and exercising.
The Second Stage of Altitude Sickness Treatment
- Acetazolamide can be consumed to make your symptoms less bad, but it will not recover completely.
- Make sure your traveling companions are aware of how you are feeling at all times, even if your signs seem to be minor; your judgment may be impaired.
- Once you are fully healed, you can continue climbing up with caution.
- If you still don’t feel better in 24 hours, descend at least 500 meters (1600 feet).
- Do not try to climb yet again until all of your symptoms have gone away.
- Your physique should have familiar with the height after 2 to 3 days, and your indications of illness should be gone.
- If your warning sign does not recover or worsen, go to check a doctor.
If the signs of altitude sickness are disregarded, it may get very worse and cause problems with the head or lungs, which can be fatal.
What to Do If You Get Altitude Sick in the Himalayas of Nepal?
It would be better if we were never affected by any type of altitude sickness. According to the expert, our walking speed above 2500 meters must be slow & normal in order to avoid AMS, and we should not exceed 300 M (984 ft.) every day. Above 4000 M (13123 ft), however, our daily climb rate should be 150 M.
But while coming to trek in Nepal, such as the Annapurna Base Camp Trek, Everest Base Camp Trek, Annapurna Circuit Trek, and others, daily hiking will be between 350 M to 500 M and depending on the itinerary presented by the the the agencies.
To counteract dryness and wetness, take a short walk and drink plenty of water.
When altitude sickness first appears, don’t try to ascend uphill; instead, stay at a lower elevation and get ready for the next day. If you can, ask a health care professional or your experienced trekking guide/leader for advice.
Note that those with high BP (blood pressure), emotional problems, diabetes, or lung disease should consult a doctor before going on the hike.
Treatment of Altitude Sickness on a Guided Trip
If a pressure airbag like a Gamow bag is obtainable, keep the patient inside it for a minimum 2 of hours. During the therapeutic procedure, six liters of oxygen per minute should be delivered. For medical advice, visit a doctor if available.
Keep your trekking pace slow, no greater than 300 M each day, to evade height sickness.
After the success of 4000 meters, the daily rise proportion must be 150 meters.
Some newbies to the group on a guided tour try to hide their AMS symptoms and keep going. It’s critical to remember that everyone’s acclimatization ability differs. Always talk to each other and never try to hide the symptoms of sickness.
Many new travelers mistakenly have confidence in that altitude illness only affects the elderly. This is not the case. According to specialists, as people age, the size of their brains diminishes, giving them more room for them to expand and reducing the danger of harm. It may be to some extent precise, but it isn’t fully correct.
Altitude sicknesses are not limited by sex, age group, or physical condition, as I earlier specified. It doesn’t help to be young, powerful, and fit. Medicine is not a replacement for the descent.
What You Should Know About Medication for Acute Mountain Sickness?
Before embarking on any adventure, consult your physician about any medications or health concerns you may have. Never keep your medical problems hidden from your doctor. Do remember that there are no medical hospitals or physicians in rural areas where you go trekking. “Easy access becomes increasingly difficult as the altitude rises.” As a result, before going to a high elevation, it is critical to plan ahead.
If a person starts to get altitude sickness, they are given medicines like Diamox (Acetazolamide), Nifedipine, or Dexamethasone.
Acetazolamide is the brand name for Diamox. Breathing irregularities are typical at altitude, especially as we fall asleep. It helps in the acclimatization of our bodies at high altitudes by assisting in the acidification of the blood. Preciously acidifies the body fluid & helps in the maintenance of our bodies’ oxygen supply. It helps our bodies get used to high altitudes by making us breathe and exhale more quickly.
Take this medicine a day before you hike to a higher height to prevent AMS, and formerly take a few dosages (as prescribed by a doctor) until the usual symptoms go away.
Note: Please seek medical advice before consuming any of these drugs.
Cons: Pain relievers, tingling feelings, weariness, and nausea are just a few of the common side effects, along with the risk of sleepiness, kidney infection, and other issues.
Another form of the drug is nifedipine, which is also known as a calcium channel broker. When you’re at a high elevation, this drug can benefit from pulmonary edema. Reducing pulmonary arterial pressure makes a difference. It is ineffective in treating cerebral edema. Higher blood pressure, chest pain, and heart disease are all common side effects of this drug. After taking medicine, don’t get up too quickly from a resting or sitting position. For the reason that it has the power to quickly reduce blood pressure.
This medicine may cause you to cough, have difficulty breathing, become dizzy, have an abnormal heartbeat or pulse, develop a headache, or feel weak.
Note: Nifedipine should be avoided if you have significant coronary artery disease. Consult your doctor before taking this drug.
It is a sort of steroid drug that is thought to be extremely powerful. Dexamethasone is a medicine that is useful to treat a variety of inflammatory disorders, including swelling, breathing problems, skin problems, allergic reactions, neurological problems, chronic lung disease, and others. It is often used by mountain climbers to evade illness from being at a high elevation.
Some of the bad effects of dexamethasone are blurred vision, increase starvation, dizziness, pain, trouble sleeping, and changes in your menstrual cycle.
Dexamethasone is said to be a powerful drug, and you should only use it as prescribed by your doctor. Keep note that you don’t go over or under the suggested dosage.
We hope you enjoyed our blog on altitude sickness and how to get rid of it. We definitely don’t want to scare you, but we do want to make you aware of the signs so that you can be extra careful if you are going any higher than 2500 Meters. If you think you may be suffering from altitude sickness, please reach out to your doctor immediately! Now that you know what altitude sickness is, we hope you’ll stay safe and get the help you need!