Acute mountain sickness is one of the commonest complaints among people who visit places at high altitude. They may often experience discomforting symptoms such as headache, difficulty in breathing, nausea, light headedness, fatigue, etc. The main cause is because air at higher altitude becomes thin and there is less amount of oxygen in the air. Mountain sickness occurs at an altitude above 8000 feet. It can also occur at an elevation as low as 5000 feet above sea level. Not everyone who travels to high altitude experience mountain sickness, but at least 25 percent of them may feel this discomfort.The faster a person ascends there is greater risk of mountain sickness. Hence it is always necessary to get acclimatized before reaching high altitude areas. Acclimatization is the process in which the individual adjusts his body with the surrounding environment. Acclimatization facilitates the body to perform normally in such environment.
How to acclimate at higher altitude:
Before you know the natural way of acclimatization, you must know why your body needs this. In high altitudes the atmospheric pressure is low. This means the air becomes thin and there is less amount of oxygen.When you breathe, your body receives less amount of oxygen. This triggers a response by the body to breathe at a faster rate. Common people call this as breathlessness. Breathing rapidly increases concentration of carbon dioxide in our blood which causes rise in pH level in the blood. It makes the blood more alkaline. Hence to remove the alkalinity (bicarbonate), you urinate more so that an acidic balance is maintained. At the same time, hemoglobin gets concentrated so it can saturate more oxygen. The heart has to increase its pressure as the blood has become thick. This causes slight rise in blood pressure. All this problems can be minimized if you get acclimatized as you reach higher altitude. The process is simple. Follow these tips for getting acclimatized and enjoy your trip.
- Just relax on the first day after reaching the high altitude area.
- Drink plenty of water and stay well hydrated. You will come to know if you are well hydrated by the color of your urine. Your urine is clear when you are well hydrated.
- Do not drink alcohol as alcohol will increases the risk of dehydration. It also lowers the respiratory rate and makes the symptoms worse if they are present.
- Avoid smoking as it can intensify the symptoms and hamper acclimatization.
- Ascend gradually to higher altitude from one level to another. Commonly it is recommended by experts to spend one day relaxing at intermediate level and then ascend upwards at an average rate of 1000 feet in a day. This is possible when a person is climbing or hiking or driving. But if you reach at such altitude directly by airway, the problem of mountain sickness is more. You have to relax for one or two days.
- Eat foods that contain high carbohydrate content.
- Avoid drinking too much of coffee and tea.
- Cover your forehead, ears, finger and toes with woolen clothes.
- Get proper sleep on the day you relax. This will help your body to prepare for the next day.
- Do not exert too much while you are on high altitude. The point is go slow.
- Drink hot garlic soup and raw garlic as it is known to increase blood circulation and prevents nausea and other symptoms of mountain sickness.