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How to prevent AMS (Altitude Mountain Sickness)?

  • 03-Aug-2016
  • 0

Simply put, Altitude Mountain Sickness (AMS) is an illness caused by faster ascent to higher altitudes and the consequential shortage of oxygen characterized primarily by nausea, exhaustion, hyperventilation and cerebral edema. AMS may rarely develop into HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema) and HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema). When you are traveling to Everest Base Camp and similar areas, you are prone to it. One major reason is faster climb to higher altitude without proper rest and acclimatization.

As the proverb goes, prevention is better than cure. You shall therefore need to have knowledge on the prevention of attitude sickness. Then, how can you prevent altitude mountain sickness during high altitude trek like Everest Base Camp Trek? Let’s find out.

The most reliable preventive measure for AMS is acclimatization. By acclimatization, you should understand it as an act of allowing enough time for your body to adapt to the changing altitude. If you trust on experts, you must not increase your altitude by more than 1000 feet per night and each time you increase the altitude by 3000 feet, you must spend the second night after reaching to this elevation there itself before going to higher altitudes.  So, the key is: Go Slow!

Just to give you an idea in reference to popular trekking destination we can say that if you are going for a high altitude trek like the Everest Base Camp Trek where you fly to Lukla (2860m), it is more common for trekkers to develop AMS if you don’t acclimatize properly. Note that here you are quickly moving towards high altitude.

Besides enough acclimatization, you should also be properly hydrated. You should drink plenty of fluids as you keep trekking to higher altitudes to save yourself being hit by altitude sickness. Similarly, you should limit the level of physical exertion to a reasonable level for the first few days of ascending to higher altitude.

Once you develop early symptoms of altitude sickness, you need to act quickly to prevent the worsening of symptoms. For this the person affected must immediately be stopped from ascending or taken to lower altitude. The mild symptoms of altitude sickness can be prevented from getting bad by taking ibuprofen.

If you are a trekker who has history of high altitude sickness in the past, you should be discussing with your doctor about your medical condition, precautions to be taken and the option of prescribing of any drug for preventing altitude sickness. However, remember that such drugs used don’t prevent serious form of AMS. For trekker with previous history of HAPE you may use some medicines, in consultation with your doctor, in case of future rise to altitude.

Thus, if you are to prevent altitude mountain sickness you must ascent to higher altitude (like in Everest Base Camp Trek) gradually, give yourself enough time to adapt to higher altitudes and be aptly hydrated. You may take medicines for preventing the development of symptoms in consultation with doctor. Follow these preventive measures properly and enjoy trekking in the beautiful nation of Nepal. Avoid AMS and enjoy trekking!

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