Altitude Sickness in Mount Everest

8th July 2012

Trekking is considered as a fun and exciting challenge for most people. The higher the goal is, the better as it gives them a sense of great achievement. One of the most popular destinations of avid trekkers is Nepal, the home of Mount Everest and the Himalayas. One of the most common sickness people experience while trekking to Mount Everest Base Camp is altitude sickness, however this only generally occurs above 3000m.

Most trekkers to Everest Base Camp suffer some form of altitude sickness which is medically known as acute mountain sickness or hypoxia. This means that the body is not getting enough oxygen to help the body function. Due to the low oxygen intake, many people will feel shortness of breath, a headache, poor sleep, and sometimes sluggishness. More severe symptoms are vomiting, nausea, lack of appetite, breathing problems and poor coordination.


If not promptly addressed, a trekker with altitude sickness can die and this happens every year in The Himalayas. The sad fact is that every death from altitude sickness is completely preventable as it generally happens in solo trekking expeditions when the trekker is not part of an organized group. If a trekker has mild to moderate symptoms of altitude sickness they will know about it. Trekkers need to listen to their bodies and if they feel moderate symptoms, they must descend to lower altitude as they will not acclimatize sufficiently and recover at the current altitude.


In solo groups trekkers die every year because they push their body too hard, and instead of understanding their temporary illness, they push forward with all they have. All trekkers need to understand that trekking at high altitude is not like running a marathon, giving it everything you have-when you have altitude sickness symptoms can be fatal. Very severe symptoms of altitude sickness are discoloration of the skin, slipping in and out of consciousness, vomiting blood, disorientation, and difficulty to breathe which is caused by the low air pressure in their position.


First you should ensure you are not dehydrated and have had enough salt; a fantastic drink which surprisingly tastes good is Sprite with salt.  Second you should rest and not ascend much higher. If you have a mild headache this can go away on its own by staying at the same altitude and acclimatizing. For headaches you can take pain killers but this only masks the symptoms.


In order to prevent altitude sickness, people can try having ample amounts of rest. Whenever they are climbing and covering more ground higher that 6,500, they should at least rest for a day to get their bodies accustomed to their current height. After their rest, they can continue their climb on a slower pace. People going on a faster pace are more at risk of having altitude sickness because they are forcing their bodies and it would also cause them to experience shortness of breath. The most effective solution that would conquer altitude sickness is to descend from the current height the climbers are in. If people experience the starting symptoms of altitude sickness, they should go down or transfer to a lower level until their symptoms vanish. They should never continue their trek if they are still experiencing some headache and nausea as it might worsen if they pursued their trek.


Common misconception most people have about altitude sickness is that people are only in danger while they are climbing on top. However, investigation and research shows that people descending from Mount Everest still experience altitude sickness which can lead to their demise. Experts can only surmise that the climbers, who died during descent, used up all their energy during climbing that they were so exhausted during the trip downwards.


Challenges are fun to take and Mount Everest provides the greatest adventure many people would like to embark. Taking extra precautions before, during, and after the trekking will help people finish the expedition they have set for themselves without losing any lives.

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