ACUTE MOUNTAIN SICKNESS (AMS)
SLOW AND EASY IS THE WAY TO GO
As you climb higher into the mountains, your body gradually adapts to the reduced amount of oxygen in the air. The appearance of altitude sickness symptoms shows that your body has increased its altitude level faster than it can acclimatize to the corresponding change in atmospheric pressure and reduction in oxygen. Every person reacts different to altitude and the acclimatization processes. Anyone can fall ill with high altitude sickness regardless of their body shape, experience and previous mountain trekking experience
Altitude sickness may begin to appear at 2,400 meters above sea level, but an increased risk of high altitude sickness sets in starting from the 3,500 meter mark. The high risk or mountain zone starts from 5,500 meters.
Primary symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) are:
-Headache-Loss of appetite-Nausea-Vomiting-Fatigue and weakness-Dizziness-Restless sleep-Shortness of breath-Swelling of the face and hands.
At extreme altitudes, above 4,500 meters, Acute Mountain Sickness can turn into High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) or High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) which are both very serious.
High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) symptoms include: serious fatigue, shortness of breath and dry cough, shortness of breath at rest, rapid and shallow breath, frothy or pink mucus possible, rasping sound when breathing, pressure, heavy feeling in the chest, restlessness, rapid pulse, possible fever, cyanosis – blue or gray lips and indescribable lethargy.
High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) symptoms include: powerful headache which doesn’t pass using painkillers, loss of coordination, confusion, hallucinations, cramping fits, short-term blindness and numbness or paralysis of individual body part.
Things to Avoid
– Sleeping pills (acetazolamide is the sleeping tablet of choice at altitude)
– Narcotic pain medications in more than modest doses
Preventing AMS The key to avoiding AMS is a gradual ascent that gives your body time to acclimatize. People acclimatize at different rates, so no absolute statements are possible, but in general, the following recommendations will keep most people from getting AMS
– walk slow and steady – Drink plenty of liquid prior to the start and during the hike – Be honest and tell how you are feeling to the group members and guide. – Take it easy relax and think positive and enjoy the scenery – if you hit By AMS head to back lower elevations immediately.
Preventing Severe AMS
This simply cannot be emphasized too much. If you have symptoms of AMS, DO NOT ASCEND ANY HIGHER. Violating this simple rule has resulted in many tragic deaths.
The best way to treat altitude sickness symptoms is to descend. With Acute Mountain Sickeness it is best to descend at least 400-500 meters or to the previous altitude at which there were no symptoms. With HAPE and HACE, one should descend immediately at least 500-1,000 meters. Trekkers should rest for a day or two and drink lots of fluids. If sysmptoms have completely disappeared, the trekker can ascend again. If symptoms continue to worsen the victim should continue to descend or be evacuated.