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Altitude Sickness

Early symptoms of altitude sickness include:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue and
  • Insomnia

Later symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Respiratory failure
  • Cerebral edema
  • Coma
  • Death

Altitude sickness prevention

Prevention of altitude sickness is by acclimatizing the body to increasing altitude. Prevention of acute mountain sickness is sometimes with acetazolamide medication. Acute mountain sickness can usually resolve with no problems.

We recommended doing and observing the following basic principles for treat mountain sickness when you’re at Kilimanjaro:

  • We recommend taking acetazolamide (Diamox)
  • Having an adequate time and rest periods for acclimatization.
  • Descend back to lower altitudes.
  • When trek go as slowly as possible, do not overexert yourself, even on the lower reaches
  • Drink loads of fluid (2.5-4 liters a day)
  • Do not drink alcohol, use stimulants on smoke on the mountain.

Altitude sickness is due to a rapid ascent to higher altitudes (4800 to 11,200 ft or more) due to the decreasing amount of oxygen (low PO2) that occurs at high altitudes.

There are three main types of altitude sickness, acute (mild) altitude or mountain sickness (AMS), high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), and high-altitude cerebral edema.

The cause of altitude sickness is the decreasing amount of oxygen available as altitude increases.

Altitude sickness is usually diagnosed by the patient’s clinical condition. Occasionally other tests such as chest x-ray, head CT and/or MRI scans are utilized. Some people can use self-care or home remedies, such as simply descending to a lower altitude, to help reduce symptoms or cure altitude sickness.

Medical treatment for altitude sickness may include oxygen, hyperbaric treatment, and medicines such as acetazolamide (Diamox, Diamox Sequels) and/or dexamethasone (AK-Dex, Ocu-Dex) as well as over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications and antinausea medications.

However, definitive treatment is for the patient to go to a lower altitude.Most people with self-curing acute mountain sickness do not need a follow-up with a health-care professional. However, those that develop high-altitude pulmonary edema and/or high-altitude cerebral edema may require more extensive follow-up with their doctors.