Acute Mountain Sickness or AMS refers to the symptoms that often develop while travelling to the high altitude. Many travellers experience the symptoms while travelling to 2500 m of altitude or higher. Any traveler regardless of their age, sex and fitness level can experience altitude sickness.
The AMS by itself is not very hazardous but if it is ignored and remains untreated it can lead to more serious life threatening medical conditions called high Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) and high Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE). If AMS is promptly treated, the symptoms will go away so that you are left to enjoy the beautiful trek in the mountains.
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What are the symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness?
AMS symptoms are not specific, so it can vary from one person to another. It is good to quickly treat it as soon as any one of the symptoms appear.
- Headache is the first and the most common symptom of AMS.
- Loss of appetite
- Shortness of breath
- Trouble sleeping
- Nausea or Vomiting
- Fatigue or weakness
- Persistent rapid Pulse
- Peripheral Edema ( swelling of hands, feet and face)
Tips to avoid Acute Mountain Sickness
The intake of oxygen molecules per breath gets lower as we move to higher altitude. It is necessary get adequate oxygen for the long walks in mountains, you have to breathe more or adjust to having less oxygen. Acclimatization is a process of letting the body adjust to the higher altitude. Staying at a place for a day or two for letting the body adjust to the thin air of the mountains is very important. It is advisable to spend two nights at the same elevation for every 3000 feet of ascend. It is very important for you to schedule plenty of acclimatization days while you trek to Everest region.
The higher rate of water vapour are lost from the lungs at higher altitudes thus it is very important to hydrate oneself frequently. Carry a bottle of water and take a sip frequently, even if you do not feel thirsty. If you are losing lots of water through perspiration, you can maintain the electrolyte level with sports drink targeted specifically for the purpose.
c) Say no to Caffeine and alcohol
The local homemade alcoholic drink and a cup of beer in the Sherpa Villages may be very tempting. But, it is best to stay away from your morning’s dose of caffeine and alcohol while you trek. Caffeine and alcohol consumption at higher altitude will increase the likelihood of dehydration. Avoid caffeine and alcohol at all the instance especially while you ascend up to the Everest Base camp.
d) Slow and steady wins the Race:
The last thing to do while you trek is to overexert yourself. It is very hard to breathe as you cover higher altitude but it is definitely wrong to push yourself too hard. The Everest Trekking is not a race and you can walk slowly and steadily while enjoying the splendid mountain vista. Resting at the altitude is the best way to avoid altitude sickness.
e) Make your tummy happy
The trekking in the hills requires high energy, thus it is recommended to eat well while you trek. It is advisable to eat high carbohydrate diet with about 70% calories while trekking in the high altitude. Good diet also helps to avoid the altitude sickness.
You can also use drugs like Acetazolamide to prevent the Altitude sickness. The acetazolamide can be taken twice a day from two days before starting the ascent. Continue the medication throughout the ascent till the next day after reaching the highest altitude.
f) Garlic Breath!!
Garlic and Cloves are famous Nepali remedies to avoid the ills done by altitude sickness. Garlic thins the blood and enhances blood flow and cloves help the body to be more efficient oxygen. Adequate consumption of these two herbs will help you avoid the altitude sickness.
If the symptoms of the altitude sickness continues and worsen then it is best to go to lower altitude and seek medical help.