Altitude Sickness

Acclimatization & Sickness

Mountain or Altitude Sickness is a common occurrence ahead of 11,000 feet above sea level and spares none. Often, youngsters find themselves sick with headaches and nausea whereas the elderly don’t.  Holiday Moods Adventures organizes a senior citizens-only trek each year, the participants of which fair wonderfully.

They are in no hurry to rush through the trekking routes and are willing to admit uneasiness; compared to the younger generation, these participants score much higher on the trekking report card.

Not going too high too fast is the golden rule. Trekking is not a forced route march and things should be taken at a leisurely pace to avoid altitude sickness. After 3000m, the per day gain in height should not exceed 500m, since the air gets thinner and drier as one goes higher.

To ensure hydration, refer to the color of urine as an indicator- clear means good to go. Headaches, dizziness, insomnia, nausea, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, and swelling of the hands and feet are all symptoms of mountain sickness. While the appearance of one or a couple is the indicator of the body not yet having adjusted to the height and should not be cause for panic, one should ideally decide against gaining any more height till the discomfort has been done away with.

However, in the case that these conditions get worse, such as persistent vomiting, delirium, loss of coordination, bubbly breathing, bloody sputum, rapid heart rate or breathlessness, and blueness of face and lips, one should prepare for a hasty retreat to a much lower altitude. If unattended, these symptoms could escalate and even lead to death.

Descent is the only viable cure for altitude sickness. Regardless of the hour, anyone showing serious signs of deteriorating health by the aforementioned symptoms should be rushed downhill, preferably by porter or pack animal. A descent of just a few hundred vertical meters can result in a dramatic recovery.

Trekkers often form pre-conceived notions and altitude paranoia referring to medical advice and horror stories. The truth is that trekking above 4000m demands adjustments and accommodation from one’s body and the appearance of mild symptoms is but natural. In the off case that the illness is persistent and severe, the simplest yet most effective cure is descent.

For a trekker, mental flexibility plays just as important a role as does physical fitness.

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