Altitude sickness - It doesn't bother this guy!

Altitude sickness

If, during one of our India tours or holidays to India, you've planned an adventurous trek or mountain hike, it's important to know about the effects that the change in altitude can have on your body.

Altitude sickness is one of the main things that can affect you during a hiking trip (in Ladakh for instance) or a trek in the high mountains. It's a condition that can occur when you ascend rapidly to heights over 2000 to 5000 metres (6500 to 16400 feet). Sensitivity to altitude sickness can differ from person to person and even if you’ve had no trouble with altitude sickness before, that's not to say that you won't be affected next time. 

Altitude sickness is caused by the low levels of oxygen in the air at high altitudes. The condition generally occurs above 2500 metres (8200 feet). Sensitivity to altitude sickness differs per individual and symptoms can also occur at lower levels. It is generally impossible to predict who will have problems with altitude sickness. However people who have previously had altitude sickness, have a higher chance of suffering from altitude sickness the next time. Altitude sickness can be avoided by giving the body time to acclimatise. There are various forms of altitude sickness that are all caused by a lack of oxygen.
Mild altitude sickness: This occurs several hours to a day after arriving at high altitude. The symptoms consist of shortness of breath, headache, nausea, and general feeling of being unwell- a sort of hangover feeling.
The best thing to do to treat mild altitude sickness is to simply stop climbing and- if necessary- make your descent if the symptoms do not improve within a couple of days. For the headache, paracetamol can be taken. Additional medicines and oxygen can be given.

Serious altitude sickness: Here, the headache and shortness of breath usually worsen and occur even when resting- especially at night. It can also make you very sluggish and effect your ability to walk. A serious condition, without treatment, serious altitude sickness can lead to fluid in the lungs and brain (lung and brain oedema), coma and in some cases, death. If you suffer from serious altitude sickness, it is vital that medication and oxygen is administered and you should descend the climb immediately. If you go to Tibet, you are already at a very high altitude when you land. So, if you're having problems with altitude sickness then it’s not possible to descend because you are on a high plateau. In cases like this, it is therefore important to take time to acclimatise.
Altitude sickness - Nepal
Altitude sickness - Manali to Leh

How to prevent altitude sickness


• Gradually ascent to altitudes over 2500 metres (8200 feet). 
• Acclimatise for 2 days when ascending above 2500 metres (8200 feet)
• Do not drink alcohol or take sleeping tablets
• Drink lots and lots of water or herbal tea (no alcohol or coffee)
• Your overnight accommodation must preferably be no more than 300  metres (1000 feet) higher than the accommodation for the previous night 
• Be very cautious about using Diamox (acetazolamide - a medicine used prophylactically for altitude sickness)
• For serious altitude sickness a helicopter can be used (is necessary), but it is very expensive (about 1200 euro per hour) and can only be organised by a trekking agency or by the embassy. It will fly if a security bond (400 euro) is paid in advance
• In consultation with the doctor a medicine (acetazolamide) can be used to promote acclimatisation in people who have previously had altitude sickness and when there is a sudden ascent to altitudes above 3500 metres (11500 feet) when acclimatisation is not possible.

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