What Do You Know About Acute Mountain Sickness?

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What Is Acute Mountain Sickness ?

Visualize this scenario: you’re on a magnificent hike in the Himalayas when your buddy suddenly gets a terrible headache and starts getting dizzy. When you arrive at your camp, canteen or room they refuse to eat anything. Does this ring any bells? They could be suffering from AMS, or Acute Mountain Sickness. One of the most common problems that trekkers experience while walking at high altitudes is AMS. Altitude sickness may occur in up to half of people who climb to elevations above 8,000 feet.

acute mountaineering sickness
Trekking In High Altitude

Hikers aren’t the only ones who experience this. For some, simply visiting a high-altitude region can be problematic. When your body tries to acclimate to the lower air pressure and oxygen levels at high elevations, symptoms appear.

What causes AMS?

At higher heights, a fast change in air pressure and oxygen levels causes altitude sickness. If you travel to a high elevation without giving your body time to acclimate to reduced oxygen, you may have symptoms. Even if you’re in good physical shape, altitude sickness can strike.

Acute Mountain Sickness
High Altitude Sickness

In addition, high altitude and low air pressure can cause blood vessels to bleed fluid. Researchers are baffled as to why this occurs. Fluid builds up in your lungs and brain as a result of the leaking. Ignoring mild or severe symptoms can put your life in jeopardy.

Who is at risk?

You’re most likely to have acute mountain sickness if you:

  • You live near in the coastal region and travel to a high elevation.
  • You’ve had the disease previously.
  • You climb up too fast
  • You haven’t yet acclimatized to the higher elevation.
  • Acclimatization has been hampered by alcohol or other substances.
  • You have a medical condition that affects your heart, nervous system, or lungs.

Symptoms of AMS

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle aches
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Skin irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swelling of the face, hands and feet
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath, or dyspnea with physical exertion

Based on a doctor’s prescription and advice, a variety of medications can be used to treat AMS. They are as follows:

  • Ibrufen
  • Dispirin, for headache relief and
  • Diamox
  • Dexamethasone, only in extreme cases

Different Forms of AMS

Mild AMS: Symptoms like a moderate headache and fatigue don’t keep you from doing what you want to do. As your body adjusts, your symptoms will improve within a few days. As your body adjusts, you should be able to stay at your present height.

Moderate AMS: Symptoms start to interfere with your activities. You may experience severe headache, nausea and difficulty with coordination. You’ll need to descend to start to feel better.

Severe AMS: Even at rest, you may have shortness of breath. Walking can be difficult. You must immediately descend to a lower altitude and seek medical attention.

Altitude disease comes in two kinds, both of which are less common but more dangerous. Both are potentially fatal.

  • HAPE (High-altitude pulmonary edema)HAPE produces excess fluid on the lungs, causing breathlessness, even when resting. You feel very fatigued and weak and may feel like you’re suffocating.
  • HACE (High-altitude cerebral edema)HACE involves excess fluid on the brain, causing brain swelling. You may experience confusion, lack of coordination and possibly violent behavior.


The easiest method to avoid altitude sickness is to take it slowly, which is known as acclimatization. This gives your body enough time to acclimate to the lower oxygen levels. When ascending, take your time. Spend a day at a halfway point before continuing your ascent, for example.

You can also discuss taking acetazolamide before your vacation with your healthcare professional. It can help avoid altitude sickness if taken 24 hours before flying to a high altitude and continued for five days. Dexamethasone can also be used as a preventative measure, however it comes with a lot of risks. Talk and discuss with us before your trek.


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