No matter how fantastic trekking in Nepal is, I consider it to be my duty to tell you more about high altitude sickness, because only by knowing your enemy can you protect yourself from it.
What is High Altitude Sickness
In preparing to go trekking in the Himalayas of Nepal where the altitude of many trekking routes reaches 5,000 -5,700 meters above sea level, while trekking summits are located at altitudes of 6,100 -6,400 meters, it’s important that you’re aware of the possible physical risks and know how to recognize the symptoms of high altitude sickness, as well as ways how to “treat” this potentially serious ailment.
So what is high altitude sickness and how does it manifest itself? Called also Mountain Sickness, Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) or Altitude Illness is the human body’s reaction to atmospheric pressure and a reduction of the concentration of oxygen present in the air. As you climb higher into the mountains, your body gradually adapts to the reduced amount of oxygen in the air. The appearance of high altitude sickness symptoms shows that your body has increased its altitude level faster than it can acclimatize to the corresponding change in atmospheric pressure and reduction in oxygen. In trekking, altitude acclimatization processes are different for each trekker.
Whilst trekking in Nepal anyone can fall ill with high altitude sickness regardless of their body shape, experience and previous mountain trekking experience. There’s no need to fear high altitude sickness, but it’s very important that you know how to avoid it, how to recognize it and how to act correctly in the event that you encounter symptoms of altitude sickness.
In rare cases, symptoms of high altitude sickness may begin to appear starting from 2,400 meters above sea level, but an increased risk of high altitude sickness sets in starting from the 3,300 – 3,500 meter mark. The high risk or mountain zone starts from 5,500 meters. This is why mountain airports in Nepal like Lukla and Jomsom are located at an altitude of 2,700 -2,900 meters.
At altitudes above 3,000 meters, headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and shallow breath must be considered to be symptoms of high altitude sickness with the exception of cases in which there is another genuinely objective reason for these symptoms that is related to the trekker’s state of health before going trekking.