Acute Mountain Sickness or Altitude sickness occurs when your body is exposed to a higher altitude than it is used to. It typically happens above 2400 m as the air becomes thinner with the lesser quantity of oxygen. AMS can range from mild to severe in intensity. While mild AMS can gradually disappear with acclimatization or treated easily, severe AMS can cause some serious complications in your lungs or brain. It is important to note that severe AMS happens rarely.
In order to avoid AMS, we usually climb up at a steady pace and in many occasions before gaining more than 800m altitude we acclimatize.
There are three stages of altitude sickness and symptoms.
1: Normal AMS Symptoms – Should expect but not worry about
People usually feel dizzy, get headaches, nauseous, and out of breath starting from 2,400m above sea level. It is a normal case as the body takes time to adjust to the thinning air. Generally, after our body gets used to the condition the symptoms go away.
2: Mild AMS Symptoms – Do not push to go higher in this case
The symptoms of Mild AMS include dizziness, muscle aches, insomnia, headaches, vomiting, and loss of appetite, rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath with physical exertion. Don’t climb higher as it may worsen your condition. However, it can be treated with any headache medications or a drug called Diamox.
3: Serious AMS Symptoms – Descend Immediately
In case of a severe AMS, the symptoms heighten which includes shortness of breath while resting as well. As the symptoms grow stronger, one won’t be able to walk, and fluids start to build up in your lungs. One of the quickest care for severe AMS is to make an immediate descent to lower altitudes.
Dangerous Cases of AMS
If AMS is not treated in time, it can be life-threatening and lead to edema, a condition in which fluid is accumulated in the tissues of the body. Following are the two serious altitude sickness caused at high altitude.
High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE)
In HACE, the brain gets swollen which can lead to coma and even death. Its symptoms are paralysis on one side of the body, bladder dysfunction, fatigue, bowel dysfunction, loss of coordination and confusion. Descent to lower altitude as soon as possible to prevent the worsening of the condition.
High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)
Fluid is accumulated in the lungs which also increases the capillary pressure. Its symptoms include severe shortness of breath at rest, dry cough that later leads to produce pink frothy sputum and fatigue.
Important Note: Severe cases of AMS are pretty rare. At Adventure Club Treks, all our guides are aware of various stages of AMS and know what to do in such cases.
We prioritize acclimatization, talk about the use of Diamox beforehand and counsel all our trekkers on the risk and preventive factors before and during the trip. Your safety is our primary concern.
Adventure Club Treks always equips its guides and porters with a basic first-aid kit during regular treks. For expeditions that take on the isolated and off the beaten trekking paths, a comprehensive first-aid kit is necessary, the same goes for climbing expeditions as well.
Note: We can add medical supplies as per the special needs of the trekkers to the first-aid kit given above.