Altitude sickness is a common condition that occurs if you travel at a high elevation (8,000 ft or 2,500 m above). It happens because of a shortage of oxygen in the body. Also known as acute mountain sickness, if a traveler is not used to high altitudes or does not acclimate properly can suffer from it.
As most of our trekking and climbing packages take you above 2,500 meters, there is always a lingering risk of altitude sickness during the trek. However, to reduce its occurrence possibilities, we have designed all of our trekking itineraries adding ample rest days, which will give enough time to trekkers to relax and take a breath during the trek.
*Note: Don't take altitude sickness lightly. If the condition gets serious, you may have to return without completing the trek or get an airlift to the nearby hospital.
Depending upon the severity, the symptoms may differ. The most common symptoms of altitude sickness are:
- Lack of appetite
- Nausea & vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling of hands, feet, and face
If the symptoms get worse, the person may get complications that include fluid in the lungs and brain swelling. It happens in rare cases, and most of the time, our crew members take all necessary steps to cure the symptoms.
Causes of altitude sickness
- A sudden drastic change in the altitude
- No acclimatization period (average human body needs 1 to 3 days to become acclimatized)
- If you see any symptoms stop and descend to a lower altitude until the symptoms getaway
- Supplement oxygen in case of severe breathing
- Carry medications prescribed by the doctor
- Drink lots of water and keep yourself hydrated
- Do not consume alcoholic drinks or smoke. The last you want to dehydrate your body
- Ascend at a constant pace
- Make sure your itinerary has acclimatization days
- Try to sleep as much as you can during the trek
Types of altitude sickness
There are two types of altitude sickness- High altitude cerebral edema (HACE) and High altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE). These two are the severe conditions of acute mountain sickness that occur above 12,000 ft.
High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE)
Subsequent changes in pressure within the blood vessels and a lack of oxygen at high altitude causes fluid to leak through tiny blood vessels into the brain, which leads to swelling. HACE is the result of staying at a high altitude for more than a week. It is very dangerous if not treated on time and can lead to death.
High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)
HAPE builds up fluid in the lungs and prevents oxygen from getting into the bloodstream. With the progression of HAPE, the blood oxygen level drops, and you may see the following symptoms:
- Tight chest
- Blue tinge to the skin
- Breathing difficulties
- Confusion and disorientation
- Weakness and exhaustion
- Persistent cough with pinkish sputum