21st Feb. 2018
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Altitude & Fitness

If you’ve trekked in Nepal mountains, you know the requirement of certain level of fitness & adaptation for trekking in high altitude environment. Since Tibet of the Roof of the World, bodily adaptation to high altitudes is extremely important for some visitors besides being physically fit. Please do not ignore this critical aspect of your visit to high altitude regions, as some of world’s veteran mountaineers have suffered from altitude sickness at least once in their life. Besides the altitude, travelers with pre-existing cardio-vascular, respiratory, or blood related cases should consult their physician before embarking on any trekking activities. 

Fortunately, human body adapts remarkably to altitude if allowed for a certain period of acclimatization. Most of the severe cases related to altitude result from breaching the golden rules of acclimatization.

Some people exposed to higher altitudes than 2500 meters experience one or more mild symptoms of the altitude sickness: headache, nausea, loss of appetite, shortness of breath with minimal exertion, sleep disturbance, dizziness or light-headedness, weakness, slight swellings of hand & face.
The mild symptom which are mostly a nuisance than any real concern might develop into serious conditions like Acute Mountain Sickness, HAPE, etc if the body is not allowed sufficient time for acclimatization.

Although all trekking itineraries have been designed to prevent altitude related problems, here are some guide lines for your information.

Some Tips on Preventing Acute Mountain Sickness: Some basic guidelines for the prevention of AMS:-

  • If possible, don't fly or drive to high altitude. Start below 3,000 metres (10,000 feet) and walk up.
  • If you do fly or drive, do not overexert yourself or move higher for the first 24 hours.
  • If you go above 3,000 metres (10,000 feet), only increase your altitude by 300 metres (1,000 feet) per day, and for every 900 metres (3,000 feet) of elevation gained, take a rest day to acclimatize.
  • Climb high and sleep low! You can climb more than 300 metres (1,000 feet) in a day as long as you come back down and sleep at a lower altitude.
  • If you begin to show symptoms of moderate altitude sickness, don't go higher until symptoms decrease.
  • If symptoms increase, go down, down, down!
  • Keep in mind that different people will acclimatize at different rates. Make sure everyone in your party is properly acclimatized before going any higher.
  • Stay properly hydrated. Acclimatization is often accompanied by fluid loss, so you need to drink lots of fluids to remain properly hydrated (at least four to six litters per day). Urine output should be copious and clear to pale yellow.
  • Take it easy and don't overexert yourself when you first get up to altitude. But, light activity during the day is better than sleeping because respiration decreases during sleep, exacerbating the symptoms.
  • Avoid tobacco, alcohol and other depressant drugs including, barbiturates, tranquillizers, sleeping pills and opiates such as dihydrocodeine. These further decrease the respiratory drive during sleep resulting in a worsening of symptoms.
  • Eat a high calorie diet while at altitude.
  • Remember: Acclimatization is inhibited by overexertion, dehydration, and alcohol.

A prescription drug DIAMOX (acetazolamide) is often included in to first aid box while travelling to high altitude areas. Consult a physician for the appropriate condition & dosage for the usage of the drug.

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