Altitude Sickness Awareness: Staying Safe on the Everest Base Camp Trek Trail

By Glorious Himalaya on February 27, 2024 in Trekking

The Everest Base Camp Trek is one of Nepal’s most popular commercial treks. The trek starts at 5364m, which means there is a high chance of altitude sickness. In this blog, we will discuss the concept of altitude sickness and ways to prevent it.

Everest Base Camp Trek is one of the most fun trekking adventures for trekkers looking for adventure through majestic landscapes and stunning mountain ranges. As you wander through the altitude of 5000m, you see different types of remote villages, valleys, glacial moraines, and snow-peaked mountains. However, trekking at an altitude of over 5000m always comes with a risk, as there is a massive chance of altitude sickness. There are a few symptoms of the illness that you can catch early and prevent it from getting worse, like cough, headache, fever, nausea, and vomiting.

There are a few ways to prevent altitude sickness, which you must consider before deciding how to cure it. In this guide, we will explain in lengthy terms how to avoid altitude sickness and have fun during your trek without falling ill, which can ruin the trek or even degrade your health. So, let’s get into it.

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Understanding Altitude Sickness:

While trekking at high altitudes is fun and challenging, knowing and understanding altitude sickness is imperative. Altitude sickness, often known as Acute Mountain sickness, is when the body fails to acclimate to high altitude, meaning low oxygen levels, harsh weather, and change in temperature. Generally, AMS starts at an altitude over 2500m, and the risk is highest above 3000m. Altitude sickness can affect anyone regardless of fitness level, age, or even experience if they are careless.

The leading causes of altitude sickness are decreased oxygen levels and atmospheric pressure. When the oxygen level is reduced, it leads to various symptoms like nausea, dizziness, headache, fatigue, and shortness of breath. However, for some people, the sickness can get even worse if they suffer from High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema). Now that you know what altitude sickness it’s time to figure out how to prevent it.

Preventing Altitude Sickness:

Preventing altitude sickness and not waiting to cure it is very important. Take the necessary precautions to minimize the risk of altitude sickness and enjoy your trek with all the fun and challenges. Remember, there are no guarantees, but being prepared is key.

Gradual Acclimatization:

The best way to minimize altitude sickness is gradual acclimatization. Gradual acclimatization means the process of gradually climbing and descending the ascents. The gradual acclimatization means you must not rush towards the altitude. It would be best to ascent slowly, giving your body time to adjust to the low oxygen levels. The curated itinerary from the trekking agency has 1-2 days of acclimatization because rushing towards the high altitude is detrimental and increases the chance of altitude sickness tenfold. So always trek higher and sleep lower during your trek to Everest Base Camp.

Stay Hydrated:

Another way to minimize altitude sickness during your Everest Base Camp Trek is to stay hydrated. Trekkers should always drink water, electrolytes, and energy drinks, mainly plenty of fluids, to prevent dehydration. It would be best to remember that increased urinary and respiratory water loss at a higher altitude doesn’t make you thirsty, so keeping yourself hydrated will be based on instinct. However, do not drink too much coffee or caffeinated products; avoid alcohol. These two drinks are also a major cause of dehydration, which causes altitude sickness.

Proper Nutrition:

Just as staying hydrated is essential, having proper food and nutrition is equally crucial to making your Everest Base Camp accessible from altitude sickness. As you will be trekking for several hours each day for several days, your body needs energy. Failure to provide our body with energy will make us sick and vulnerable to altitude sickness. Trekkers should consume foods filled with carbohydrates, healthy fats, and proteins, giving you power and raising your stamina. It is wise to avoid meat products at high altitudes as they can be raw and poorly cooked.

Avoid Alcohol and Tobacco:

Oxygen levels are pretty low at higher altitudes, so your body has to work hard to generate oxygen. But if you keep consuming alcohol and tobacco, that decreases the oxygen supply to the body’s tissues. If your body fails to produce even more oxygen, then it will suffer from altitude sickness, which can also turn fatal.

Medication:

In some cases, medication such as acetazolamide (Diamox) may be prescribed to prevent or alleviate symptoms of altitude sickness. However, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before taking any medication and to be aware of potential side effects or contraindications.

Listen to Your Body:

Perhaps the most critical aspect of altitude sickness prevention is listening to your body and recognizing when it’s time to rest or descend. If you experience symptoms of altitude sickness, such as headache, nausea, or dizziness, it’s essential to take them seriously and respond accordingly. Ignoring or downplaying symptoms can lead to serious health complications and jeopardize your safety on the trail.

Recognizing the Symptoms:

Recognizing the symptoms of altitude sickness is essential for early detection and prompt intervention. Common symptoms include:

  • Headache, particularly a persistent throbbing headache that does not respond to pain medication.
  • Nausea and vomiting are often accompanied by loss of appetite.
  • Fatigue and weakness, despite adequate rest and hydration.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness, especially when standing or exerting oneself.
  • Difficulty breathing, particularly during physical activity or while lying flat.
  • Insomnia or difficulty sleeping due to disturbances in breathing patterns or discomfort.

It’s important to note that symptoms of altitude sickness can vary in severity and may worsen over time if left untreated. Therefore, monitoring your health closely and proactively addressing any signs of discomfort or distress is crucial.

Recognizing When to Seek Help:

Despite taking preventive measures, altitude sickness can still occur, especially in individuals predisposed to the condition or those ascending too rapidly. Therefore, monitoring your health and recognizing when to seek help is essential.

Suppose you or a fellow trekker experience severe symptoms of altitude sickness, such as confusion, loss of consciousness, difficulty walking, or severe shortness of breath. In that case, it’s crucial to descend to a lower altitude and seek medical attention immediately. In remote areas such as the Everest region, this may involve activating an emergency evacuation plan and arranging for helicopter rescue services if necessary.

Conclusion:

Trekking in Everest Base Camp Trek is very fun and adventurous and lasts in your memory. But the threat of altitude sickness is real. If you are not careful about altitude sickness while trekking in the mountains, you will fall ill, and your adventure will be ruined. In some cases, you might have to be admitted to a hospital.

There are a few ways to prevent altitude sickness, but gradual acclimatization must be expected. Never rush to a high altitude without resting or getting acclimatized to the oxygen levels and altitude. Also, remember always to remain hydrated, eat nutritious food, and avoid alcohol.

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