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Learn How to Keep Acute Mountain Sickness Under Control

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There are a lot of people who can’t live without going to trekking or hiking at the hilly areas on vacation. The adventurous side of travelling is magnetic to them. If you also feel the same kind of urge to discover the mountainous areas, then, the passion and its other aspects are not new to you. The common illness that happens to most of the hikers and trekkers is AMS or acute mountain sickness. Trekkers suffer from nausea, shortness of breath, vomiting, headaches and much more. The higher you go, the higher your body gives it up to acute mountain sickness and the adventure-filled trip becomes an annoyance. But AMS sickness shouldn't stop you from conquering the mountains. Find out how to deal with this hiccup in the trek and knock it down.

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What is Acute Mountain Sickness? 

Those who travel the high altitude areas, to be specific areas that are above 8000 feet from sea level, often get affected by acute mountain sickness or AMS. It is an illness that happens to skiers, trekkers and hiking enthusiast. The other name of this illness is altitude sickness. It is also known as altitude pulmonary edema. 

There are two prime causes behind this illness. The Lower rate of oxygen and reduced air pressure makes people affected by AMS. However, the good news is, the illness heals really fast and it is usually mild in nature. Though severe AMS can affect lungs and brain seriously, however, it happens rarely. 

altitude sickness
Dreadful Altitude Sickness

Acclimatization and Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)

Those who are not aware of the AMS and its outcomes, often suffer badly when they get affected by the illness. Especially the beginners, who concentrate on the scenic beauty of the mountains, overlook the possible health risks and develop mountain sickness very easily. 

This is why, before moving to high altitude areas, it is important for you to get familiar with the climate of the location and to be prepared to face it. The process is known as acclimatization. 

There are three types of altitudes mainly:

  • A place that is 8,000 – 12,000 feet above the sea level is known as high altitude.
  • A place can be called very high altitude if it is 12,000 – 18,000 feet above the sea level.
  • A place that is located above 18000 feet and more from the sea level gets called extremely high altitude area. 

Up to 8000 feet, you are expected not to come across any symptom of mountain sickness as such. The moment you start going up further, because of reduced air pressure, you will feel lack of oxygen. Your body will ask for more oxygen. Though your breathing rate increases you would not be able to intake oxygen according to your need. To avoid the trouble, it is necessary to spend some time in the high altitude area to get body familiar with the oxygen level of that place. This is known as acclimatization. If one fails to acclimatize properly and faces ataxia, it is highly recommended not to climb further and to descend as soon as possible. 

Essential Tips for Enhanced Acclimatization

Here are some acclimatization tips that would help you prevent acute mountain sickness like a champ. 

Tip #1 Gradually Raise the Altitude 

If you are going to cross a high altitude area, then try to spend a whole night after every 1000 feet. This way, you would be able to acclimatize properly. After going up for 3000 feet, spending a complete day and night at the very altitude is highly recommended. Following this rule, you will be able to prevent altitude mountain sickness. 

Tip #2 Stay Hydrated Accordingly  

While on a journey to a high altitude location, you must properly intake ORS based water or garlic water. Garlic water stimulates blood flow in your body and improves oxygen levels so that you don't experience breathlessness. Carrying a tetra pack of ORS and keeping garlic in the water bottle is the easiest options that you can pick in this regard. Other fluids such as soups, milk tea and juice can also boost your energy brilliantly. Try not to drink plain water much and avoid drinking excessive water than needed. 

stay hydrated while hiking
Drink garlic infused water to dodge AMS (source)

Tip #3 Don’t Sleep at High Altitude Locations  

In order to avoid high altitude sickness, try not to sleep at high altitude locations. You can hike at the very location during the presence of daylight. But get back to the lower altitude location by evening to sleep at night. 

Tip #4 Avoid Overdoing Physical Activity 

Excessive and unnecessary physical activity will make your body ask for more energy and oxygen. This may lead to breathing trouble. This is why; you must restrict yourself from getting involved in an unnecessary physical activity. 

Tip #5 Refrain from Tobacco, Alcohol, Depressant Drugs and Smoking  

To dodge acute mountain sickness, you must avoid smoking and chewing tobacco and other stuff of the very sort. Avoiding alcohol and depressant drugs such as sleeping pills will protect you from the decreased respiratory drive during sleep. 

Tip #6 Keep Body Warm 

Always wear dry clothes. And don’t forget to wear good woollens. Keeping your body warm is one of the important tasks when you are climbing at a high altitude zone.  

Tip #7 Carbohydrate Intake is a Must 

Include carbohydrates in your daily diet while climbing. Make sure you get 70% of the required amount of calories from the carbohydrates. 

Tip #8 Choose Upright Position While Sleeping  

The upright position is ideal to sleep in the ams altitude. To keep head lighter, you must keep your head above extra pillows or a bag. Keeping the head at a higher place while sleeping than usual is the key. Or you may sit straight keeping your back and head on the wall and sleep if possible. 

Tip #9 Keep Suitable Medication for AMS Handy   

Before going to the expedition, always consult a certified physician. Carry the prescribed medicines, a first aid kit to stay prepared for any situation. If you have a tendency of developing acute mountain sickness, then take the medications during the journey rightly. Keep in mind that the medicines do have side effects. To avoid any side effect such as allergy, you must always take prescribed medicines only. 

medicines for altitude sickness
Diamox treats altitude sickness (source)

Tip #10 Keep Oxygen Kit Handy 

To beat ams, you can also keep oxygen arrangement handy. You can consult a doctor about in taking oxygen. In case of any emergency, a small oxygen cylinder can help you immensely in the high altitude regions. 

Tip #11 Descend If Needed 

If ams symptoms trouble you much and you find climbing further very troublesome, don’t hesitate to descend immediately. Unless you feel comfortable and regular, don’t climb further. Stick to the moderate altitude until you recover. 

Acute Mountain Sickness Symptoms 

The AMS symptoms can be distinguished into three types, mild, medium and severe.

  • Mild symptoms include breathing trouble, nausea, fatigue, headache, and dizziness, lack of appetite, interrupted sleep and lethargy. Medication and immediate descend can cure these troubles quickly. 
  • Medium level altitude sickness symptoms include ataxia and high altitude headache. A descent of at least 305 to 610 metres along with suitable medication can cure the troubles. 
  • When it comes to severe symptoms of acute mountain sickness, you can even experience the inability to walk. The mental state gets affected and fluid built up in the lungs can also be noticed. An immediate descend of minimum 610 to 1220 meters is mandatory in this regard. 

Top Ways to Beat Acute Mountain Sickness

There are certain ideas suggested by experienced mountaineers and trekkers. If you follow the ideas minutely, you will be able to beat high altitude sickness before it strikes you down. 

1. The Acute Mountain Sickness Paradox

AMS can affect the fitter trekkers and hikers also. It happens because they climb the altitude faster than the body can tolerate the drastic change of the climate. Hence, no matter, if a climber is a beginner or a pro, both can get affected by AMS. This is why; the experts suggest not climbing more than 1000 feet in a day. 

  • Try to climb up to 100 feet per hour to maintain a stable average. 
  • After climbing every 300 feet, allow yourself to relax for at least 15 minutes. 

2. The Pee Colour Test 

A human body loses water through breathing and perspiration when one is on a trekking session during a dry and cold day. Cold prevents the feeling of thirst and body leans forward to dehydration. To test maintain sickness symptom and its severity, the expert mountaineers often follow the Pee colour test. Keep an eye on the colour of your urine. If it is plain, then you are OK. If the colour turns yellow, then it’s an indication that your body needs hydration. This is why keeping the body hydrated is very important while climbing, make sure you carry water filtration bottles to drink safe water. 

3. The Englishman Diet

To prevent acute mountain sickness, the experts always suggest others to eat healthy. It is very important to take proper meals while eating for breakfast, lunch, evening snacks and dinner. You can also carry dry fruits and energy bars along with the meals. 

Digestible carbs and low-fat food are ideal in this regard. Artificial tastemakers must be avoided to prevent dehydration. Spices like fennel seeds and turmeric are highly used these days in food by the climbers. It would not be wrong to state that the current Englishman diet for the climbers includes a lot of elements that are highly popular in Indian Ayurveda. 

ways to beat acute mountain sickness
Add fennel seeds to your diet when you are trekking (source)

4. Say NO to Smoking and Alcohol 

Not only AMS but hypothermia can also be caused by the infusion of alcohol and smoking. Both of the illness can turn severe for the climbers who are regular with these habits. Hence, if you want to celebrate the successful completion of your trek with alcohol and smoking, then celebrate it later. Never ever try to have all these at the high altitude areas. 

5. Mineral Balance 

Climbing, trekking and hiking at high altitude locations are rigorous physical activities. A sudden change in the mineral level while trekking in high altitude locations can cause serious acute mountain sickness. 

It is the reason; the experts always suggest others to carry ORS water with them. The electoral can also be at your rescue if you come across issues with changed mineral levels. 

6. The Golden Pace Rule 

The pace you maintain naturally while walking is your golden pace. No matter how fast you run, you would notice that your golden pace is quite slow. According to experts, one must follow his golden pace while trekking at the high altitude locations. Because, an increased speed that is more than the golden pace, can easily tire a person up.  

If you maintain your golden pace while trekking, you would never come across severe breathlessness and altitude sickness symptoms. A little sweat may appear but you will feel free and comfortable than others. 

7. Dry and Warm on Arrival at Camp

To avoid Hypothermia and acute mountain sickness, always put on dry and fresh clothes after reaching the base camp. Choose your clothes according to the condition of wind and temperature. To ensure an excellent health condition after reaching the base camp, you can practice deep breathing exercise before hitting the bed. 

If you are one of them who always feel thrilled by the plan of climbing and trekking, then surely the above-stated tips are helpful for you. As a beginner, if you are thinking of exploring a high altitude location soon, you can share your thoughts with us. You can also share your experience with us if you have recently completed an expedition in a hilly location. We are always interested to know about the exciting adventure trips taken up by you. 

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