Altitude Sickness is often referred to as Acute Mountain Sickness. It is a form of illness that affects many trekkers and mountaineers. It is mainly caused when the body cannot adapt to the low levels of oxygen and atmospheric pressure in the high altitude mountains.
Most people spend their childhood and adulthood in places that are closer in altitude of the sea level. In such low altitude, oxygen is available in plenty and the body functions smoothly. Let us assume you are someone who has spent most of your life in low altitude region. If you go trekking in the high altitude regions without any training, chances are that you might suffer from altitude sickness too.
At altitudes that are greater than 3000 meters, the amount of oxygen available is quite low. With low oxygen level can come depleted muscle and bodily functions. If problems that result from altitude sickness are not treated well, they can lead to complications which can result in death as well.
Types of Altitude Sickness
There are 3 different types of altitude sickness. The various types of this sicknesses depend upon how strong or mild they are, and which parts of the body are affected by them.
Acute Mountain Sickness
This is the mildest form of altitude sickness. If you get affected by this sickness, your sensory organs like inner ears, eyes, and nerves give you a sense that your body is moving. On the other hand, the rest of the sense organs of your body feel that you are stationary.
- Nausea and vomiting
- Increased Dizziness
- High Amount of poor Sleep
- You feel as if you have had a hangover
High Altitude Pulmonary Edema
High Altitude Pulmonary Edema results in the formation of fluid in the lungs. This fluid doesn’t allow incoming fresh oxygen to get filled up in the spaces in the lungs. With the lack of fresh oxygen in your body, you feel exhausted quite easily. It becomes virtually impossible to carry out even simple tasks like walking or carrying your bags.
- The symptoms take a day or two to become visible.
- You’ll find catching a breath problematic.
- Difficulty in breathing even while resting
- Increased heart rate.
- You’ll observe symptoms that are similar to Acute Mountain Sickness
- An incessant Cough
- You might observe foam/ blood in Saliva
- You might also observe your lips, nails, and tongue turning blue.
High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE)
High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) results in the formation of fluid in the brain that results in lower levels of cognitive ability. This condition affects 1% of the people who trek to the altitude of 3000 meters or more.
- A severe Headache
- Vomiting and Exhaustion
- Fuzzy vision
- Confusion in the simplest of things
- The impossibility of walking in a straight line.
Preventive Measures of Various Types of Altitude Sickness
If you want the best possible preventive measure for altitude sickness, appropriate training is the one. Various forms of strength training like running, cycling, jogging, push-ups, pull-ups, gym etc help to build strong muscles and develop stamina. This helps to eliminate the possibilities of altitude sickness to a large extent.
Maintaining an appropriate amount of water level in your body is another way to tackle the threat of altitude sickness. You should also avoid alcohol during the treks which can cause dehydration. In order to maintain food amount of water content, you can also use salt or powders that help in hydration.
Diet is of the utmost importance while trekking or while preparing for training. Good, balanced diet helps you to stay fit physically as well as mentally. If you don’t have a good supply of proper diet, your body will be weak and susceptible to altitude sickness.
The most popular form of medication that helps to keep altitude sickness at bay is Diamox. Most trekkers carry a subscription of Diamox during high altitude treks. However, you need to consult a medical practitioner to know if your body will react positively to Diamox.
Having high standards of cleanliness helps to avoid water or food-borne diseases. Such diseases greatly affect your strength and stamina and cause weakness. These might eventually lead to altitude sickness.
You might be too animated to reach the endpoint of your destination and trek fast. This causes exhaustion. In addition, food and water content of your body will also decrease significantly if you rush your treks. This will leave you vulnerable to altitude sickness. So trek slowly making sure you don’t gain a lot of altitude in a day.
If there are days of acclimatization during your treks, do not miss them. Acclimatizing gives your body ample time to adjust to the temperature and altitude of the mountains. This is another way to prevent altitude sickness.
If your body shows any signs of altitude sickness, you should descend to lower altitudes immediately. If your body is too weak to descend, make sure that your insurance has covered the costs of evacuation.