Trekking the Himalayan foothills of Everest Base Camp Trek comes with its own sets of challenges. The Everest Base Camp altitude sickness is one of the most challenging aspects of trekking in the Everest region.
But what is altitude sickness? This is one of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to high altitude trekking in Nepal. In simple words, altitude sickness is the acute sickness caused by the rapid ascent to higher altitude.
As we gain altitude during the Everest Base Camp trek, the oxygen level reduces significantly. Moreover, the atmospheric pressure also reduces as a result. Some of the signs of altitude sickness include breathing difficulty, dizziness, loss of appetite and energy, etc.
Altitude sickness at higher elevations can turn life threatening if not treated properly and on time. The level of altitude sickness also ranges from simple, mild to fatal. At altitudes above 2400m, the oxygen level reduces to less than 60% of the sea level.
Everest Base Camp trek altitude sickness poses a threat to all trekkers regardless of their age, or gender, physical fitness. However, there are more chances of getting altitude sickness if you do not rest and acclimatize properly. Some of the essential tips provided below also helps you to tackle altitude sickness.
The main key is to walk gently on a steady pace along with regular hydration. Furthermore, you should not push yourself beyond your limits and be patient. Read further for the detailed description regarding the Everest Base Camp altitude sickness.
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Everest Base Camp Altitude Sickness
Everest Base Camp Trek is one of the most trekked routes in the world. The high altitude trek is on every avid trekker’s bucket list. The stunning adventure in Nepal takes you close to the mighty Himalayas.
The Himalayan foothills are harsh and challenging for even the most experienced trekkers. After arriving at Lukla (2,600m) from Kathmandu, you will immediately start to feel the effect of high altitude conditions on your body.
The trekking journey takes you to the unique village settlements of the Everest region including Namche, Dingboche, Lobuche, and others before arriving at the Everest Base Camp. However, the highest point of the trek is not Everest Base Camp but Kala Patthar (5,500m).
At such high altitude conditions, you will be under the risk of altitude sickness at all times. A lot of trekkers get affected by the Everest Base Camp trek altitude sickness. The high altitude combined with the harsh trekking trails will challenge trekkers to the core.
But this does not mean you cannot enjoy the Everest Base Camp trek completely. Stop your trek and descend as soon as you can see the signs of altitude sickness on your body. Do not ignore the symptoms and push yourself further.
If you follow the given instructions and take necessary precautions, the Mt. Everest Base Camp trek will be the greatest adventure of your life.
Types of Altitude Sickness
The altitude sickness and its effect varies from person to person. Different people have different altitude lines that depend on various factors. Genetic makeup also plays a role in determining the altitude line of people. Based on the symptoms and their severeness, the altitude sickness are of three types. They are:
- AMS (Acute Motion Sickness)
Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is a milder form of altitude sickness due to rapid ascent to high altitudes. Dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headache are some of the recognizable signs of AMS.
- HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema)
In High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), fluid gets accumulated in the lungs of healthy people. This is due to rapid ascent to high altitudes above 2,500 meters of sea level.
- HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema)
In High-altitude cerebral edema (HACE), fluid gets accumulated in the brain of people. People suffering from AMS are more vulnerable to it. It is the most severe form of altitude sickness and can turn fatal if not treated immediately.
Acclimatization for Everest Base Camp Altitude Sickness
Acclimatization is essential at the high altitude conditions. During acclimatization, your body will adapt to lower oxygen levels. It also adjust well to the freezing temperatures and lower air pressure. Trekkers acclimatize at the commercial town of Namche (3440 m) for a day.
There are many acclimatization points including the hike to Khunde, Sherpa museum, Syangboche airstrip, etc. You can observe the beautiful mountain vista while acclimatizing around. Namche is the last acclimatization stop before arriving at higher altitudes.
Acclimatizing in Namche is vital to combat altitude sickness. Trekkers acclimatize at Dingboche (4440 meters) for the second time in the trek. It is advisable to acclimatize on every 1000 meters gain in elevation. Acclimatization means your lungs will get time to adjust to the thinner air.
Hence, this process decreases the risk of altitude sickness significantly and you can trek without any hassle. Acclimatization is essential to prevent the Everest Base Camp trek altitude sickness.
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Ten Essential Tips to Prevent Everest Base Camp Altitude Sickness
Maintain a gentle but steady pace
Maintaining a gentle but steady pace is essential for a successful trek in the Everest region. This step will save you from the threat of altitude sickness. The trails of the Everest Base Camp trek are harsh and steepy. The uniform speed will provide you enough strength for the trek.
You should not hurry up or speed your walks as this increases the altitude sickness symptoms in trekkers. The breathing rates increases and makes your body restless and brings shortness of breath.
You will not also get enough time to cope with the changing atmosphere. This causes low oxygen levels in your body and make you dehydrated which in turn creates altitude sickness symptoms. Hence, it is essential for maintaining a gentle but steady pace
Learn more about the Altitude Sickness
Every trekker should learn more about the Everest Base Camp trek altitude sickness before commencing on the trek. You should also know about their symptoms, practical remedies, and preventive measures.
The high altitude Everest Base Camp trek passes along the altitude of 4000 meters or above at all times. The freezing conditions and the high altitudes make the trek challenging. There is a high possibility of getting altitude sickness during the trek.
Even the most veteran trekkers fall sick due to the carelessness and lack of preparations. Hence, a thorough research before the Everest Base Camp trek will give you an idea of the altitude sickness and its preventive measures.
There are various ways to research altitude sickness. You can talk to experts, consult related doctors, visit dedicated websites, blogs, or simply google your queries.
Sleep at Lower Altitudes
Another important trick to prevent altitude sickness is to sleep at lower altitudes than the highest point of the trek. In the night time, the air gets thinner and temperatures drop significantly. Therefore, altitude sickness symptoms is higher during the night.
Therefore you should trek at higher altitudes during the daytime and then descend to lower altitudes for sleeping. As a precaution, you should not sleep at altitude above 5000 meters during the Everest Base Camp treks.
There is a high risk of developing HAPE and HACE which are severe forms of altitude sickness. It is better to descend back to lower altitudes after arriving at the Everest Base Camp (5360m) or Kalapathar (5545m).
Train in advance before the trek
You should have a strong physical fitness and mental stability to tackle altitude sickness. Altitude sickness can happen to anybody irrespective of age or gender.
However, a healthy individual is more capable of dealing with the symptoms of altitude sickness. A good training regime with lots of cardiovascular exercises like cycling, hiking, swimming, will reduce its risks of altitude sickness significantly.
Get the right travel package and agency
Getting the right travel package and agency is essential for a better trek experience. A good travel package will prepare you for altitude sickness along the trek.
The years of experience of the company will help you immensely as they can help you along the trek. An organized trek with proper acclimatization schedule is essential for the Everest Base Camp trek. You can follow their advice about the things to do and things to avoid during the trek.
A cheaper rate doesn’t necessarily mean the travel package is bad and vice versa. You should always look out for the acclimatization schedule and facilities provided during your Everest Base Camp trek.
Dehydration is a huge problem in high altitude conditions. You need to keep drinking water regularly even if you don’t feel like. Dehydration is one of the main causes of altitude sickness. Drink water or hot beverages to stay hydrated during the trek.
Medical professionals suggest trekkers to drink at least 5 liters of water on an average trek day in the high altitude conditions. Hydrating increases the oxygen levels in your body and reduces the altitude sickness symptoms by a large margin. Hence, drinking water at regular intervals is vital.
Take anti-nausea tablets like Diamox
Diamox is a tablet that prevents altitude sickness among trekkers. If taken in a correct manner it will speed up the acclimatization process. However, you will need a prescription from a medical doctor.
Carry protein bars and dark chocolates
The spectacular Everest Base Camp trek is also physically taxing. You will need to up your daily calorie intake. Along with three healthy meals a day, you will also require regular snacks during the trek for instant energy.
You can carry some protein energy bars and dark chocolates for the trek. The dark chocolate also helps you to tackle with altitude sickness. These various snacks will give you instant energy during the trek.
Do not ignore or hide the symptoms of Altitude Sickness
You should not ignore avoid minor symptoms of altitude sickness in the high mountains. As soon as you find the symptoms you should descend down to lower altitudes. It can also turn fatal if you ignore the symptoms.
You should inform your guide as soon as you see any signs of altitude sickness. These preventive measures can help you tackle altitude sickness by a great extent. Therefore, you should not ignore or hide the symptoms of altitude sickness.
Do not smoke or drink alcoholic beverages
The high altitude conditions have thinner air and less oxygen. Drinking alcohol makes your body dehydrated. Besides that, smoking also causes shortness of breath among trekkers. This causes the symptoms of altitude sickness to increase. Hence, smoking or drinking alcoholic beverages is not favourable during the Everest Base Camp trek.
The Final Say
Everest Base Camp altitude sickness is a huge challenge for the trekkers. The risk of altitude sickness is always present. But with proper preparation and precaution you can always prevent the Everest Base Camp trek altitude sickness.
Trekkers should not skip acclimatization during the Everest Base Camp trek. You should also follow the precautions and tips provided properly.
However, if you get the symptoms of altitude sickness you should descend immediately. This is because the conditions may turn fatal if not treated on time. Overall, the Everest Base Camp Altitude sickness is a challenge, but with proper precaution it is manageable.
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