“Climbing at altitude is like hitting your head against a brick wall – it’s great when you stop”. -Chris Darvin
Always wanted to climb that mountain, but too scared you couldn’t? Heard a lot about altitude sickness and that’s stopping you to take a vacation to those magnificent mountains? Don’t worry, with proper knowledge and preventive remedies, you can make sure this doesn’t become a hindrance between you and those mountains.
Altitude sickness, also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS) or high altitude pulmonary edema occurs when you walk or climb to a higher elevation, or altitude, too quickly.
Who can have it?
Physical fitness can help you protect against altitude sickness. Right?
Wrong. It’s a common myth that athletes cannot have altitude sickness. In fact, being physically active at a high elevation makes you more likely to get it. Your genes also play a crucial role in your body’s ability to handle higher elevations. The risk of experiencing altitude sickness is higher if you live by or near the sea and you are unaccustomed to higher altitudes.
Also read: Things you can do to save your children from the current pollution levels in Delhi
Why does climbing too high too quickly cause problems?
This is because the body doesn’t get enough time to adapt to the lower air pressure and lower oxygen level in the air at higher altitudes. The body responds by increasing the breathing rate. In turn, this boosts the blood oxygen, but not to normal levels. The body must adjust to operating with less oxygen than usual. When a person doesn’t give the body time to adjust, he or she will develop symptoms of altitude sickness.
What exactly happens?
When we go to a higher altitude, the barometric pressure (i.e. the pressure of the air surrounds you) decreases. This results in a lesser quantity of oxygen available for consumption. Some scientists also believe that lower barometric pressure also lowers down your blood pressure. When you go higher than 8000 feet, you are at a risk of being exposed to altitude sickness.
There are 3 types of altitude sickness:
If not treated within 48 hours, the person may die!
Altitude sickness treatment:
- Climb high and sleep low
- Avoid alcohol
- Avoid smoking
- Eat a light but high-calorie diet
- Reduce your activity level (or delaying exercise)
- Rest for at least a day before moving to a higher altitude
- Hydrate yourself with water at regular intervals (don’t overboard though)
- Keep medicines like acetazolamide, blood pressure medicine, lung inhalers, dexamethasone, aspirin, oxygen inhaler – MyOxy handy
Here’s a direct link to get your hands on your portable oxygen can for high altitude sickness treatment, which is a necessity for your survival during a hike to an altitude.