Attitude Sickness

High Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness, also known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) occurs to those who ascend too rapidly, particularly above elevations of 3,000 metres.  It is a natural reaction by the body as it attempts to acclimatize itself to high altitudes, pressure differences, reduced oxygen, dry atmosphere and other changes. Safe trekking practice is to restrict ascent to 300 -500 meters per day and to take rest stops to acclimatize.

No one can predict who may be affected by altitude sickness as it can affect anyone of any age or level of fitness.  Particularly vulnerable groups include those with a respiratory condition, heart or cardiovascular disease, psychiatric disorder, or other serious health problems. a

All those who intend to trek above 3,000 meters are advised to consult their doctor to ensure that they do not have any serious respiratory or cardiovascular health problems.

If you are fit to trek your doctor may prescribe Diamox tablets (or similar). The tablets can be taken the night before flying/going to a higher altitude or once basic/mild symptoms appear.  Diamox increases the amount of urine produced, and changes blood acidity. The net effect is to improve breathing and reduce fluid around the brain and in the lungs.

Common basic symptoms of altitude sickness include dizziness, headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, irregular breathing, loss of appetite, dizziness, light-headedness, fatigue, increased urination or difficulty passing urine.   In certain individuals, other symptoms may occur, including sleeplessness, lips and fingertips turning bluish purple, and drowsiness. In dry atmospheres, some might experience nosebleeds, rough skin, or dry lips.

Do not ascend further if these symptoms develop. Stop and rest until the symptoms resolve (usually within 24 hours).  Stay well hydrated – drink plenty of hot water, and avoid sedatives, alcohol and smoking.  It can also help to eat carbohydrates.

It is critical to notice and immediately attend to serious symptoms.

Serious symptoms include escalation of the basic symptoms listed above and/or the following conditions:

  • Swelling of hands or face
  • Inability to stand upright without swaying while eyes are closed
  • Can hear gurgling sound in the chest
  • Zero energy

If serious symptoms occur, medicine itself is of little assistance.

If a trekker feels s/he is affected by serious symptoms of AMS then descent should not be delayed even if one has to descend at night. In such cases, immediate evacuation by helicopter or Porter will be arranged to bring you down to a lower altitude.

Himalayan Mantra Trek staff care about your safety and are very experienced with altitude sickness. They will take immediate action to assist your evacuation.

Where rapid descent is not possible (for example during serious weather events) a Gamow bag, a portable plastic hyperbaric chamber can be
used to reduce the effective altitude by as much as 1,500 meters (5,000 ft). A Gamow bag is generally used only as an aid prior to evacuation of severe AMS patients.