Overcoming Altitude Sickness

As adventurous as a mountain trek may seem, the high altitudes can affect even the most seasoned travellers and cause sickness. However, with a few simple tweaks, you can get back to having high spirits throughout your trip!

There are many challenges of ascending to a high altitude. For instance, people who ascend with a cold can expect more problems than those who begin their journey in perfect health. Also, those who use aircraft or vehicles to go up quickly are most likely to suffer altitude sickness. 

While it is common for most people to experience symptoms of sickness at around 3,000m, like breathlessness, lack of appetite, nausea, and sometimes headaches, if it develops further, it may affect the lungs and brain too. In some cases where the fluid accumulates in the lungs, people start coughing. Some may even produce frothy, blood-stained sputum. And if there is pressure within the skull because of the fluid buildup, then there may be disorientation and bizarre behaviour, too.

Prevention
•    Allow your body to adjust to the low levels of oxygen. Spend a few days reaching that altitude, get accustomed, and then go up not more than 300m a day thereafter
•    Avoid alcohol while acclimatising to high altitudes. It can add to the symptoms of mountain sickness and make dehydration worse
•    Since the blood level of oxygen is the lowest while sleeping in high altitudes, visit high altitudes during the day and return to lower altitudes to spend the night
•    Relax for the first couple of days before engaging in anything tiring

Treatment
•    Consider taking acetazolamide to help your body adjust to the rapidly increasing altitudes
•    Move to a lower ground as soon as you can
•    If your symptoms are mild, take it easy for a few days and then get rolling
•    Certain medications, like dexamethasone and nifedipine, apart from acetazolamide will help relieve altitude sickness.

-Sumana Reddy