Symptoms of Altitude Sickness
Symptoms of AMS may include headache, nausea/vomiting, shortness of breath, tiredness/fatigue, trouble sleeping/insomnia, loss of appetite, and dizziness.
The symptoms start showing a few hours after reaching high altitude and mild cases may resolve in one to three days. Serious AMS cases may require oxygen, medication and moving to slightly lower altitude using a method known as acclimatization.
Severe AMS symptoms are like;
- Confusion and sometimes hallucinations
- Shortness of breath even at rest
- Inability to walk ( mobility issues)
- A cough that produces a white or pink frothy substance
- Loss of coordination and trouble walking
- A severe headache that doesn’t get better with medication
- A tightening in your chest
How to avoid altitude sickness
- Walk high, sleep low. Climbing high and sleeping low if done gradually can help combat Altitude Sickness. This ensures that you familiarize and get used to the low pressures of the Mountain letting you to recover gradually overnight when you rest.
- Slow and steady. Your mountain guides will advise you to go slow while maintaining a steady speed, this helps to breathe at a constant rate and slower, removing the strain you might expose to your heart and lungs if you breath hard and overwork.
- Drink as much water as possible. You are advised to drink at least 3 litres of water per day. Keeping your body hydrated helps in acclimatization. Altitude Sickness on the mountain resemble dehydration symptoms so remember to drink as much water as possible.
- Diamox. One of the best drugs that will help you avoid and reduce the symptoms of Altitude Sickness is Diamox. You are strongly advised to consult your local doctor before climbing Mount Kilimanjaro as it should be prescribed by your doctor in case you have any underlying medical conditions that are not recommended for you to use Diamox.
Effects of High Altitudes & low atmospheric pressure
- Low oxygen saturation
Every breath you take at high altitudes carries less oxygen to the blood making your blood poorly saturated which basically causes you to feel more tired and breathlessness.
Very low oxygen saturation in your blood can also cause impaired mental functions, reduce your ability to make decisions which can be dangerous that is why our guides always carry pulse-oxymeters to check your oxygen saturation every day.
- Cerebral oedema
Very low air pressure can cause fluid to clog your sinuses and air cavities in the skull. At first, it may seem like mild headache or migraines, but can eventually cause disorientation, coma and can be fatal resulting in death.
- Pulmonary oedema
The main cause of Pulmonary Oedema is brought about by very low pressure in the lungs making fluid to pass through tissues and air spaces in the lungs which eventually may cause difficulty in breathing. It may also cause pneumonia especially when you are asleep.
How to diagnose Altitude Sickness and AMS First Aid
AMS is not gradual, it happens rapidly and spontaneously with the first symptoms beginning to show, among the symptoms include breathlessness, fatigue and headaches.
As for AMS first aid, our experienced mountain guides are trained to diagnose and recognise AMS by the early symptoms and perform first aid. They will monitor your blood oxygen saturation and take the necessary steps to help salvage the situation by using medication, high altitude sleeping mask,s and oxygen cylinders. We strongly advise you to report accurate symptoms as soon as possible to get immediate help.
High Altitude Advice: The Dos and the Donts
Here is some advice from tranquil Kilimanjaro that you should take into consideration while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Meru, Mount Kenya, Oldonyo Lengai or Mount Ruwenzori for a successful climb and an equally successful summit.
Take your time– Mount Kilimanjaro is not a 100-meter sprint, it is more of a marathon, endurance is key for a successful summit, so choose the longer routes that will give you enough time to acclimatize. Choose the routes that follow the “Slow and Steady” rule well. A great example of the routes is the Northern Circuit route.
Drink More Water; Always keep your body hydrated at all times while hiking, drink plenty of water to minimize the Altitude Symptoms at least 3-4 litres a day.
Eat Well (High Carbohydrate Meal); You will need enough energy and stamina for hiking days. It is advisable that your Mount Kilimanjaro meals contain great proportions of a high carbohydrate diet. Do not worry our very able cooks will take care of it but you are also allowed to come with your snacks.
Do not drink alcohol; Alcohol may aggravate high Altitude Sickness symptoms and slow down the acclimatization process, so it is better to avoid alcohol while climbing.