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Altitude Sickness, symptoms, prevention and treatment

Updated on September 10, 2014

Know about Altitude sickness

Altitude sickness is problem caused by the low oxygen where body can not adopt at that atmospheric pressure which results complications. The knowledge about altitude sickness is very essential to save the life for people who go trekking in high altitudes. The simple measures taken into account could be life saving. It is a big public health concern for people travelling in high altitude. For example half of the people who go trek to Khumbu region of Mount Everest Nepal are said to experience altitude problems. Some cases go severe and people loose life. The carefully made itineraries can prevent altitude sickness problems. There are some herbs like Gingko which people consume to fight altitude sickness which results postive help to most people but think before consuming them as sometimes the body may react and cause problems. When altitudesickness symptoms taken into account at first stage can be cured and one can continue the Journey but if not paid proper attention to the sysmptoms at initial level which leads to complex stage where dream of reaching the goal is gone for ever. If you are planning travelling in altitude, reading these causes, symptoms and remedies might be helpful to make your Mountain travel sucessful.

Travelling in High Altitude in Nepal Himalayas

Thorong Laa Pass in Annapurna Himalayas 5400m
Thorong Laa Pass in Annapurna Himalayas 5400m | Source

Causes, symptoms and remedies

Cause of Altitude sickness

- Low Oxygen

- Low barometric pressure

- Raped ascent

- Possible dehydration

- Hypothermia

Types of Altitude Sickness

  1. AMS: Acute Mountain sickness (this is situation of mild symptoms like hangover/dizziness)

Its symptoms

- Headache

- Fatigue

- Short breaths

- Loss of appetite

- Sleep disturbance

2. HAPE: High altitude Pulmonary Edema (Lung problem by water in the lungs)

Its symptoms

- Increase of shortness of breath even at rest

- Severe Dry Cough and difficulty in coughing

- Extreme tiredness- unusual fatigue while walking

- High pulse rate i.e. around 110

- Blueness of face, lip, fingernails- which indicates inability to transport oxygen in blood

3. HACE: High altitude Cerebral Edema (Metal or Psychological problem with water in brain)

Its symptoms

- Severe headache

- Vomiting

- Ataxia/ walking like a drunk

- Altered mental status/ mental confusion

- Irritation/ does not want bothered by other’s

- Coma/ Unconscious


- Acclimatization- one night stay each after 1000m ascent

- Do not make rapid ascent which means do not go too fast too high

- No alcohol, sleeping pills and smoking over 3000m

- Drink plenty of fluid I.e. 3-4 liters fluid each day (water-coffee, tea, juice etc)

- Do not carry heavy, below 10-12 is recommended.

- Climb high and go to sleep low

- Over 3000m, 300m ascent a day

- Do not travel alone


  1. Descending is best medicine- do not wait for rescue
  2. Medicine

- Oxygen

- Diamox- for AMS 125mg before dinner, if felt suffocation before dinner

- Nafedipine for HAPE

- Steroids/ Dexamethasone

Trekking in The Himalayas

Trekking in the altitude, Everest Region of Nepal
Trekking in the altitude, Everest Region of Nepal


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