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High Altitude Sickness; Battle with the Beast

High Altitude Sickness might have been a problem for every trekker and mountaineer. The dream of exploring the mountains and the hills is majestic but there might be problems arriving in your way. But exploring the beast might be tough but every mountaineer and trekker is an inbuilt warrior.

Nepal is a country full of adventurous trekking trails like Everest Base Camp Trek, Annapurna Base Camp Trek, Manaslu Circuit Trek, Langtang Trek, Gokyo Lake Trek, High Pass trek, Annapurna Circuit Trek, Manaslu Tsum Valley Trek, and the world’s top ten highest mountains. Every mountaineer has a dream of expediting the tough trails once in a lifetime. All of the trails and routes are above the height of 3000 meters in height. So it’s no surprise to know that the oxygen level gets thinner as the height increases. Let us find out more about altitude sickness and know the ideas to deal with it.

What’s High Altitude Sickness? In a Brief

Climbing to a high altitude and exploring all the natural sites might be thrilling. Yeah but not until you will not be getting enough oxygen. So seems thrilling right but no we must be very careful and mark every path carefully.

High Altitude Sickness is a medical illness with lethal implications such as hypoxia, high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), high altitude cerebral edema (HACE), and several other neurological disorders leading to death. This term might get you a bit confused. In simple words, High altitude sickness means a lack of oxygen in the body tissue due to the thinner air density in the surroundings. Reducing air pressure at high altitudes causes hypoxia which is a potential threat to the brain.

Altitude is a distance above sea level and is directly associated with a relative density of air. Increasing the altitude decreases the air density. Altitude has been classified into three levels: high(8000-12000ft), very high (12000-18000 ft), and extreme (> 18000 ft). Most hills and mountains are very high and extreme. High Altitude Sickness is a physiological threat during a stay at a high altitude. It is associated with the increased number of RBSs and hemoglobin countering the low oxygen. There are no specific factors such as age, sex, and capacity that correlate with altitude sickness.

Each year around 4 % of mountaineers and trekkers lose their lives due to high altitude sickness. The highest mortality rate is found in the Everest region and the rate is increasing with the number of climbers. Most people are confused about oxygen availability during high altitudes. The oxygen availability remains constant but the partial pressure of oxygen decreases. This ultimately leads to a decrease in oxygen at the tissue level. But you might wonder what we can do to know about its symptoms and causes. The condition should not be taken lightly and find out all the symptoms.

High Altitude Sickness

Symptoms of High Altitude Sickness

Many travelers face HMS which is very common. Acute mountain sickness and HACE both have pathological processes including increasing cerebral blood volume and early formation of intracellular edema which is dependent on the osmotic gradient. Some of the common symptoms of  High Altitude sickness include;

  1. Lack of appetite
  2. Nausea
  3. Vomiting
  4. Insomnia
  5. Dizziness
  6. Shortness of breath
  7. Swelling of hands and legs

These are some of the common symptoms of High Altitude Sickness which might be known by any normal person. But to get a full medical diagnosis you might need help from medical personnel. Some of the symptoms when the situation gets worse might include fluid in the lungs and brain swelling.

Fluid in the lungs is shown by;

  1. Persistent cough with pinkish septum
  2. Fever

Brain Swelling is shown by;

  1. A persistent headache without any effects from painkillers
  2. Numbness
  3.  Dizziness
  4. Unsteady clumsiness
  5. Increased vomiting
  6. Change in consciousness

These are some of the main altitude sickness symptoms to keep an eye on. Meanwhile, we all get to know what is causing it.

High Altitude Sickness

So What Can Be Done to Avoid High Altitude Sickness?

Well as we all know the symptoms and their seriousness is known. But what can be done to prevent it and be safe from it? From taking medication help to considering some things before setting your trip. Everyone might not be familiar with this point.


The term "acclimatization" describes the process by which our body raises the number of RBCs or amplifies specific receptors in order to make up for the low partial pressure of oxygen. When traveling to high altitudes, a finger pulse oximeter is used to monitor the physiological effects at high altitudes. The process of acclimatization improves circulation and lessens the harmful effects of low oxygen levels on the body. People did not have a thorough understanding of high-altitude physiology when they traveled over 3000 meters for varied activities.

When people do not acclimate at high altitudes and begin their adventurous activities these symptoms may intensify and in rare circumstances, life-threatening scenarios will occur. Some of the tourists may get cerebral or pulmonary edema. In this instance, the passengers quickly return to sea level. rapid ascent to a high altitude while suffering from impaired health and fitness; they feel normal upon down to sea level. The process of acclimatization lowers the danger of developing HACE, AMS, or HAPE while assisting visitors in swiftly adjusting to the challenging conditions at high latitudes. After 5500 meters, the success of the acclimatization process depends on the physiology and immunity of the individual.

The most frequent tactical action for preventing high altitude sickness and promoting rapid acclimatization is slow stepping and staging. The saying "slow and steady wins the race" is true. High-altitude visitors are often recommended not to descend 500 meters per day after reaching 1000 meters. So be sure to stroll steadily and safely.

High Altitude Sickness

Medical Assistance and Treatment

These symptoms continue as the condition gets worse and worse at a steady pace. However, if a person experiences even slight symptoms they should alert everyone who is facing these conditions. The severe symptoms can be prevented by resting and consuming plenty of fluid and also avoiding anything that may affect blood oxygen levels such as oxygen.

So if these symptoms get severe then you will need medical assistance. So let us find out what can be done to treat it.

Painkillers such as Tylenol can be taken for headaches. Ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory medicine, also helps. Dexamethasone is a steroid hormone that suppresses immune activity and inflammation. It can reduce acute altitude sickness and other complications. Nifedipine is a calcium channel blocker doctors commonly recommend to treat high blood pressure. This is effective for treating fluid buildup in the lungs.

Acetazolamide is a trusted medicine that fixes the chemical imbalance in the blood caused by altitude sickness and increases the breathing rate. This medication has some side effects but this is the best medication used for serious conditions.



With the rise of climbers in various mountainous regions, high-altitude sickness has been on the rise. Therefore, this issue affects all tourists and hikers. However, everyone on the road now is careful and keeps the answer on the list.

Over eight of the world's tallest mountains and hills are in Nepal. and extremely high altitude. Therefore, each hiker should learn about these symptoms and get medical attention as needed. A person who is not used to high altitudes might be at risk of developing high-altitude sickness. So never ignore all these complications. Drink enough fluid make sure to exercise and make your immune system strong. Thank you!

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