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Altitude Information

What is altitude sickness?
Altitude sickness has three forms. Mild altitude sickness is called acute mountain sickness (AMS) and is quite similar to a hangover - it causes headache, nausea, and fatigue. This is very common: some people are only slightly affected, others feel awful. However, if you have AMS, you should take this as a warning sign that you are at risk of the serious forms of altitude sickness: HAPE and HACE*. Both HAPE and HACE can be fatal within hours.

HAPE.
HAPE is excess fluid on the lungs, and causes breathlessness. It is never normal to feel breathless when you are resting - even on the summit of Everest. This should be taken as a sign that you have HAPE and may die soon. HAPE can also cause a fever (a high temperature) and coughing up frothy spit. HAPE and HACE often occur together.

HACE.
HACE is fluid on the brain. It causes confusion, clumsiness, and stumbling. The first signs may be uncharacteristic behavior such as laziness, excessive emotion or violence. Drowsiness and loss of consciousness occur shortly before death.

Treatment of HAPE and HACE
Immediate descent is absolutely essential; Dexamethasone and acetazolamide should both be given, if available Pressure bags and oxygen gas can buy time

What causes altitude sickness?
Two things are certain to make altitude sickness very likely - ascending faster than 500m per day, and exercising vigorously. Physically fit individuals are not protected - even Olympic athletes get altitude sickness. Altitude sickness happens because there is less oxygen in the air that you breathe at high altitudes.

Altitude Symptom.
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
Sleeplessness
Dry Raspy cough
Fatigue/Tired
Loss of appetite
Runny nose
Hard to breath

Altitude Sickness Prevention?
Go up slowly take it easy, and give your body time to get used to the altitude. The body has an amazing ability to acclimatize to altitude, but it needs time. For instance, it takes about a week to adapt to an altitude of 5000m.

Can I take drugs to prevent altitude sickness?
As with everything, many 'quack' treatments and untested herbal remedies are claimed to prevent mountain sickness. These treatments can make AMS worse or have other dangerous side effects - many herbs are poisonous. Only one drug is currently known to prevent AMS and to be safe for this purpose: acetazolamide (diamox). It causes some minor side effects, such as tingling fingers and a funny taste in the mouth.

Eat/Drink/Sleep.
Your body is doing more physical challenge than usual so make sure to stay nourished, stay way from dehydrate and full of carbohydrates. For a dependable snack, Nepal has embraced the Snickers bar wholeheartedly and it can be found even in the tiniest villages (and for very cheaper then other countries). Too much sugar, yes, but full of good things like nuts and chocolate. Do a good deed and buy some for your porters and guide whenever possible.

*HAPE stands for high altitude pulmonary oedema, and HACE for high altitude cerebral oedema. These medical terms simply mean 'fluid on the lungs/brain.

How can I prevent altitude sickness?
✥ Stay hydrated.Try to drink at least 3-5 liters of water per day.
✥ Avoid tobacco, alcohol, and other depressant drugs including barbiturates, tranquilizers, and sleeping pills.
✥ Don’t go up until symptoms go down”. People acclimatize at different rates, so make sure that you properly acclimatized before going higher.
✥ Listen to your body. Do not over-do things the first day or two. Avoid heavy exercise.
✥ Take your time. Pace is a critical factor on all routes. "Bhistarai Bhistarai" (go slowly slowly) is the phrase of the day.
✥ Walk high sleep low: If you have enough energy, take an afternoon stroll further up the mountain before descending to sleep. (Not if you have any symptoms of altitude sickness!).
✥ Take a proper/warmer trekking gear regarding to trekking area/height.

Note: The information on this page is the recording to among experienced trekkers but is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. Consult a doctor before trekking at high altitudes or using any medications.

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