What is Altitude Sickness?
Altitude sickness is also known as mountain sickness, and it can be defined as a group of common symptoms which are caused by walking or climbing very fast to an altitude or elevation that is higher.
What is High Altitude?
An altitude from 8,000 feet to 12,000 feet above sea level is considered high, while and altitude of 12,000 to 18,000 is considered very high. However, an altitude or elevation over 18,000 feet is considered extremely high.
What Causes Altitude Sickness?
The inability of the body to function under low oxygen levels is the main cause of Altitude Sickness. You should remember that on high altitude or elevation, the level of air pressure is lower and so is the level of oxygen compared to that on lower levels. So failure of the body to adjust to these changes will cause Altitude Sickness.
Who is at risk for Altitude Sickness?
Anyone that goes to higher altitude without giving their body enough time to adjust to the change in oxygen level and air pressure can be affected by altitude sickness.
Something important to note is that altitude sickness can affect anyone irrespective of their general health status, age or sex. However, in most instances people having heard disease or lung complication are advised to avoid such high altitudes. Please keep in mind that anyone who has previously suffered from Altitude Sickness, and those who stay at a lower altitude and are not familiar with higher altitude are all much prone to altitude sickness
Also pregnant women should speak to their gynecologist prior to Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or going to a high elevation.
Skiers, hikers and anyone planning a trip a location that is significantly higher than what they are used to should be know the signs and symptoms of altitude sickness and how to prevent and treat it.
The faster one climbs to a high altitude, the more prune they are to acquiring altitude sickness. In addition, if climbers are traversing a more difficult and more energy draining trail, they are likely to acquire the symptoms of altitude sickness faster than one who is making an easy and slow climb
So why does climbing too fast too high cause problems?
Well, the truth about higher altitudes or elevations is that they have lower oxygen levels as well as lower air pressure that the lower altitudes. So when somebody climbs too fast to high altitude, when somebody climbs too fast to high altitude, they do not give their body ample time to familiarize with the change in air-pressure and oxygen levels. As a result the human body responds through increasing the general breathing rate. Consecutively, this increases the oxygen in the blood, but then again not to the normal level.
So the most import thing when going to higher level is to give the body enough time to adjust to functioning with less oxygen than the usual. If a person doesn’t give the body ample time for such an adjustment, then he or she will certainly develop altitude sickness related symptoms.
What Are The Symptoms Of Altitude Sickness?
The Symptoms of Altitude Sickness can range from mild to the medical emergency. So prior to going to a higher altitude, ensure that you are well versed with these symptoms, as this will help catch the altitude sickness before it turns out to be dangerous.
Mild symptoms include:
- Faster Heart Beat
- Trouble Sleeping
- Loss of Appetite
- Throwing Up (Vomiting)
- General Body Exhaustion
- Shortness Of Breath
- Not Feeling Well Overall
In case you develop any signs of mild altitude sickness, we recommend that you stop going any higher but rather return to an altitude that is lower. Once you do that, these symptoms will disappear on their own, and after a number of day’s rest, you can actually resume with the climb.
Severe Altitude Sickness Symptoms include:
Severe symptoms means that they have become more advanced. In case you notice any of the symptoms below, you should immediately return to a lower altitude and get medical assistance. Please note that severe altitude sickness may lead to fluid accumulating in the lungs as well as in the brain especially if not treated.
- More Intense Versions of The Mild Symptoms
- Shortness of Breath Even When Resting
- Non-Stop Coughing
- Tightness and Congestion in the Chest
- Trouble When Walking
- Impaired Vision
- Confusion and Lack of Coordination
- Change in Skin Color to Paler shade than normal, or gray, or blue
In conclusion: it is hard to predict how you will react to higher altitudes since well all have different bodies. The best defense against altitude sickness is by not climbing too fast and giving your body enough time to acclimatize.
In case you are on any medication for conditions such as: diabetes, heart problems, or shortness in breath, please speak to your physician before you go on the Mount Kilimanjaro Climb. Such conditions could result into further complications in case you catch altitude sickness.