Altitude sickness or acute mountain sickness (AMS) is a collection of symptoms that occur when a person ascends too quickly at altitudes of 2500m and above. Air becomes thinner at an increased altitude which means there is less oxygen available the higher you go. These conditions will trigger the heart and lungs to work overtime to compensate for the insufficient oxygen supply.
Even moderate elevation hikes can cause altitude sickness, especially if the hiker is not accustomed to it. Symptoms like dizziness, headaches, shortness of breath, difficulty in sleeping, and extreme lethargy may begin, as well as nausea and lack of appetite.
Severe cases of AMS exhibit confusion, breathing issues, rapid pulse, irrational behavior, vomiting, loss of balance and coordination, coughing, and graying of lips and fingernails. When these conditions become noticeable, seek immediate medical assistance, and quickly proceed to a lower altitude.
How to Avoid AMS
The key here is gradual acclimatization. Don’t rush things. Remember that we are unique and we will all have varying levels of tolerance. You need to listen to your own body and don’t rely on a preconceived yardstick to gauge your endurance.
Here is a guide to avoiding altitude sickness:
In addition to these precautionary measures, it’s also important to consult your doctor regarding your hike. They can give you prescriptions for medications that alleviate altitude sickness. Pack these prescriptions together with other emergency supplies in your first aid kit.
Altitude sickness is a serious matter that needs consideration, preparation, and knowledge, but never let it prevent you from seeking new climbs and conquering challenging hikes.
Do you have stories of altitude sickness? Chat about them in the comment section below.