Attitude sickness is often known as acute mountain sickness (A.M.S.) may occur when people ascend too quickly normally in altitudes of over 3,000 m. We strongly recommend trekkers to include some rest days into their trekking itineraries for minimal risk. Most people will feel some affect of altitude, shortness of breath and possibly light-headedness, which is fairly common. Acute mountain sickness is very different and normally involves a severe headache, sickness and loss of awareness. In almost every potential case there are enough warning signs to take appropriate action.
Our expert and trained guides from Outshine Adventure will advise you about any health requirements and also altitude sickness while you are trekking, so you should not worry about it, we do, however, recommend you get advice from you travel doctor or health advisor before you leave. The following information gives you further information about high altitude sickness and how to minimize its affects.
There are three stages of altitude sickness and symptoms.
Normal AMS symptoms – Expected but not serious.
Every trekker will experience some if not all of these symptoms, no matter how slowly they ascend. Periods of drowsiness (need more sleep than normal; at least 10 hours).
- Occasional loss of appetite
- Vivid, wild dreams especially at around 2,500-3,000 meters.
- Periodic breathing.
- The need to rest/catch my breath frequently while trekking, esp. above 3,500 m.
- Runny nose & Dizziness.
- Increasing urination while moving to/at higher altitudes (a good sign).
Mild AMS Symptoms – Don’t Go Higher
Many trekkers in the high valleys of the Himalaya get mild AMS, admit or acknowledge that you are having symptoms. You need have only one of the following symptoms to be getting altitude sickness.
- Mild headache.
- Nausea & Dizziness
- Weakness & Fatigue / Tired
- Dry Raspy cough.
- Loss of appetite.
- Runny nose & hard to breathe.
Serious AMS Symptoms – Immediate Descent
- Persistent, severe headache
- Persistent vomitine
- Ataxia (loss of coordination, an inability to walk in a straight line
- Losing consciousness (inability to stay awake or understand instructions)
- Mental confusion or hallucinations
- Liquid sounds in lungs & very persistent, sometimes watery cough.
- Difficulty breathing (rapid breathing or feeling breathless at rest).
- Severe lethargy / fatigue
- Marked blueness of face & lips.
- High resting heartbeat (over 130 beats per minute)
Dangerous Cases of AMS
High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE)
This is an accumulation of fluid in the lungs and can build up around the brain. It is often accompanied by a mild fever. If the first signs of ataxia begin to appear, treat with medication, oxygen and descent. Usually 4 to 8mg of dexamethasone is given as a first dosage, then 4mg every six hours. Diamox every 12 hours and 2-4 liters/minute of oxygen. Descent is necessary but a PAC (portable altitude chamber) bag will often be used first if available.
Unconsciousness from HACE can lead to death within 12 hours from the onset of symptoms, but can take 1-2 days to develop.
If very severe or if you feel you cannot trek any more, ask your guide to contact Outshine Adventure for immediate rescue. For emergencies, helicopter rescues are the best and quickest.
Prevention of Acute Mountain Sickness
It is important to allow yourself sufficient time for acclimatization (after 3,000 meters) so it is not necessary to make a rapid ascent. Do not drink alcohol, do drugs, take sleeping pills or smoke. Drink more than 3-4 litres a day of water or some kind of fluid. Avoid getting cold. Do not trek / travel alone, make sure to take a guide or porter. Take an easy and comfortable trekking route even if its longer. Descent if mild symptoms rapidly get worse. Going higher will definitely make it worse. You’re here to enjoy your trek not to feel sick.