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:

  • Headache
  • Faster Heart Beat
  • Nausea
  • Trouble Sleeping
  • Dizziness
  • 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.

Altitude Sickness during Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing: What You Need to Know

Mount Kilimanjaro, fondly dubbed the “Roof of Africa”, stands proudly at 19,341 feet (5,895 meters). Every year, thousands of adventurers and trekkers flock to Tanzania to conquer its summit. However, one of the most underestimated challenges of this feat isn’t necessarily the trek itself, but a medical condition known as altitude sickness. In this article, we dive into the essentials of altitude sickness during the Kilimanjaro climb and how to best prepare and respond.

Understanding Altitude Moumtaim Sickness

Altitude sickness, or Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), occurs when an individual cannot get enough oxygen from the air at high altitudes. This can happen at elevations as low as 8,000 feet (2,400 meters), but the risk significantly increases as one ascends further. Symptoms of AMS can range from mild to severe and include:

– Headache
– Dizziness
– Fatigue
– Shortness of breath
– Loss of appetite
– Nausea or vomiting
– Difficulty sleeping

Why is Altitude Sickness a Concern on Kilimanjaro?

Mount Kilimanjaro’s peak is way above the altitude where AMS can start manifesting. The rapid ascent, especially if one opts for shorter routes, doesn’t provide enough time for the body to acclimatize to the decreasing oxygen levels. Moreover, the varied climate zones of Kilimanjaro can compound the stress on one’s body.

Preventing Altitude Sickness on Mount Kilimanjaro

  1. Climb Slowly: One of the primary mantras of high-altitude trekking is “pole pole” (pronounced ‘po-lay po-lay’), which means “slowly slowly” in Swahili. A slow ascent gives your body more time to adapt.
  2. Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can mimic and exacerbate AMS symptoms.
  3. Eat Well: High-carbohydrate meals can help your body better adjust to the altitude.
  4. Avoid Alcohol and Tobacco: Both can impair your body’s ability to acclimatize.
  5. Sleep Lower: It’s a common practice to hike to a higher altitude during the day and sleep at a lower altitude at night.
  6. Medication: Some trekkers take Acetazolamide (commonly known as Diamox) to prevent AMS. Always consult with a doctor before taking any medications.

Recognizing and Responding to Altitude Sickness

Even with precautions, it’s possible to experience AMS. If you or someone in your group starts displaying symptoms:

  1. Don’t Ascend: If you feel unwell, do not climb higher. Rest at the same altitude until you feel better.
  1. Descend if Necessary: If symptoms persist or become severe, descend immediately. Going down even a few hundred meters can make a significant difference.
  2. Seek Medical Attention: Kilimanjaro’s trekking routes are dotted with ranger posts equipped with medical facilities. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.
  3. Listen to Your Guide: Experienced Kilimanjaro guides are trained to spot signs of AMS. If they suggest that you rest or descend, heed their advice.

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is undoubtedly a thrilling adventure. However, the beauty and majesty of the mountain also come with challenges, and altitude sickness is among the foremost. Being informed and prepared is the best way to ensure you enjoy your trek safely. Remember, the summit is an amazing goal, but the ultimate achievement is the journey itself and returning home with unforgettable memories and good health.