What is Altitude (Acute) Mountain Sickness (AMS)?
Altitude sickness, often known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is a particularly important medical consideration while trekking/ travelling in the Himalayas. Altitude sickness means the effect of altitude on those who ascend too rapidly to elevations above 3000 meters.
- The initial symptoms of AMS are as follows:
- Nausea, vomiting Loss of appetite
- Insomnia/sleeplessness Persistent headache
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, confusion
- Disorientation, drunken gait
- Weakness, fatigue, lassitude,
- Heavy legs, Slight swelling of hands and face
- Breathlessness and Breathing irregularity, Reduced urine output
These symptoms are to be taken very seriously. In case of appearance of any of the above symptoms any further ascent should be reconsidered; otherwise more serious, even life-threatening problems can occur. The only cure for Altitude Sickness is to descend to lower elevations immediately. Acclimatization by ascending to no more than 300 to 500 meters per day above 3000 meters, and the proper amount of rest and re-hydration are the best methods for prevention of AMS.
If you follow the simple advice of our trained guides, you won’t have to worry about complications from mountain sickness. We design our tours to ensure clients are ready for high altitude, and arrange alternative itineraries for those at risk.
Other health considerations on the mountain
Understandably, much emphasis is placed on the prevention of Altitude Sickness but frostbite and hypothermia also pose a threat to trekkers, especially those trekking above 3000m. The symptoms of hypothermia are similar to those of Mountain Sickness – slurred speech, fatigue, irrational behaviour and loss of coordination. Low body temperature is the surest sign. Heat is the treatment.
Put the victim in a good sleeping bag, preferably with another person for body heat, and administer warm food and drink. Frostbite appears initially as small white patches on exposed skin, caused by local freezing. The skin will feel cold & numb. To treat, apply with warmth. Avoid a second dose of frostbite as this can lead to permanent damage.