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Mt Kilimanjaro - Trekili Eco Expeditions

Tips to Reduce Altitude Sickness

Posted March 30, 2014 | Comments Off

When you’re planning a trip to the roof of Africa you need to be prepared for every step you take because the elements and environment can throw a lot at you. One of the most important things to consider if you want to reach the summit of Kibo, is to take your ascent slowly to ensure you avoid altitude sickness.

Altitude sickness or acute mountain sickness (AMS) as it’s also know can be one of the main reasons people don’t summit a mountain. Because climbing Kilimanjaro doesn’t need any specialist technical equipment, you need to be extra cautious in making your ascent.

You can experience altitude sickness from a height of only 1,500m above sea level, anything higher than this and that experience can become more severe if you ascend too quickly. The mighty Mt Kili is the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, so this is considered extreme altitude at over 5,500m above sea level.

Even the fittest, most experienced mountaineer can experience altitude sickness.

Altitude sickness can include a whole host of symptoms such as headache, dizziness, tiredness, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, sickness and difficulty sleeping. Symptoms can get worse and lead to prolonged breathlessness, double vision, altered mental state, persistent cough and even convulsions. These serious symptoms are very rare but do happen so it’s always best to be aware.

pole pole mount Kilimanjaro altitude mountain sickness

Here’s our top tips to reduce altitude sickness:

1- Take Your Time

If you ascend the mountain at a slow and steady pace, you not only ensure you take in the whole experience as it should be, but you also ensure you acclimatize along the way. The guides and porters are honestly not trying to hold you back from reaching the summit, they are trying to ensure you get there in the safest way possible!

2 – Prepare for altitude

Ensure you carry out a great deal of mountain training to ensure you’re in peak fitness and health, as well as taking regular hikes at higher altitudes. All of this will help to ensure you have the best chance at avoiding or at least reducing the affects of altitude sickness.

3 – Pick the right route

There are several route options to climb Mt Kili and each of them has their benefits. If you pick a longer route the climb is steadier which gives you a lot more time to get used to the changes in atmosphere and elements. Remember to story about the tortoise and the hare?

4 – Stay well hydrated

Most people need about 2 litres of water a day to be at optimum health any day of the year. So when you climb a mountain it’s extremely important to stay well hydrated and we recommend at least 4 litres of filtered water a day.

5 – Protect yourself

The altitude alone can lead to mountain sickness but there are other elements that can exacerbate the symptoms such as the sun. Use a sunscreen and lip balm which has at least 30 SPF or ideally 50! Sunglasses with 100% UVA and UVB protection are the best option, although you could consider the latest sunglass protection and get the UV400 which incorporates both.

6 – Choose the right trekking company

With a mountain expedition at this altitude, your safety should be their number one priority. As standard your trekking company of choice should provide highly trained guides and porters that are medically trained as Wilderness First Responders and carry a pulse-oximeter, a hyperbaric chamber and carry out daily medical checks to ensure you are safe to climb and show no symptoms that can lead to complications on your ascent.

Q: Experienced altitude sickness yourself? What tips do you have for other climbers?

Share your personal experiences below.

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