Proper acclimatisation is very important as ascending too high, too quickly above 10,000 ft. will increase the likelihood of developing altitude sickness. This is totally preventable problem and our routes are planned specifically to allow a gradual gain in altitude. By slowly gaining height we reap the benefits of a gradual gain the fitness and acclimatisation.
Symptoms of High Altitude Sickness:
Rather than one or two, usually a group of symptoms begin to appear as a person gains altitude. These symptoms vary in intensity and in the elevations at which they appear, depending on the individual experiencing them. The predominant characteristic associated with maladaptation to altitude is headache. Usually a headache appears in the evening after a long day of ascending. The headache should be relieved by aspirins and should go away by the following morning. The principal symptoms that accompany the onset of altitude sickness are : headache and weakness, sleeplessness, often accompanied by irregular breathing, particularly at night, fluid retention [oedema], particularly about the eyes or fingers, depending on the degree of altitude sickness, dry cough, mild nausea, loss of appetite, ataxia or loss of co-ordination and severe breathlessness at rest.
If the symptoms are a mild annoyance then you should rest until they subside. If the symptoms become more severe or do not disappear after a night's sleep, then you should descend until you feel well.
The basic treatment for severe altitude sickness is immediate descent: altitude sickness can progress rapidly once it becomes serious. The person afflicted should be taken down between 1,000 to 3,000ft. [300 to 450m.], the distance increasing with the extent of the symptoms.
The drug acetazolamide [diamox] has been used for assisting with acclimatization when travelling to altitude. Some reports indicate that the drug might be useful in treating the early stages of altitude sickness in addition to its use in prevention. It has been shown that people who had headaches, nausea and felt unwell improved considerably within 30 minutes of taking the tablets. The adult dosage is one 250mg. tablet twice a day. The most pronounced and irritating side effect is a tingling sensation which can occur at any site and without warning. The dose can be reduced to 250 mg. per day. It is recommended that the drug is started on the morning of ascent above 10000ft./300m. and is continued until descent or the person feels acclimatised. If you decide to take acetazolamide, please inform your group leader. It should not be taken by people who are allergic to sulphur drugs.
Severe altitude sickness affects few trekkers, most know when to stop and head back down. All of our treks are based on experience and are planned to gain height gradually, with days allowed for rest and acclimatization. The above brief notes on altitude sickness are to point out what it is and to note the symptoms. Prevention is simple; make a gradual ascent and allow sufficient rest at intermediate altitudes.
Medical emergency /evacuation
Incase of serious AMS – in some cases participants have to be evacuated by helicopter. Costs are very high for helicopter evacuation which may cost between USD $ 3,000 to USD $ 5,000 depending on area. You will need to have an insurance policy which also covers helicopter evacuation. If you have never purchased this type of insurance you can ask your health care provider, homeowner's insurance agent or we suggest Global Care. Their website address is www.globalcare-cocco.com. Or a search on the internet, should find you an option suitable for you.