We all love travelling to the mountains. Don’t we? There would hardly be anyone who’d refrain grabbing a trip that involves cruising through the beautiful highlands. But it can be equally daunting if it isn’t done the right way. High altitudes do not treat us the same way plains do. When our bodies go through an increase in elevation, we get prone to its resultant effects. This happens due to the sudden change in climate and temperature that our bodies are made to experience. The process of adapting to these changes is called ‘Acclimatization’ and should be given utmost importance, ignoring which you could land yourselves in serious troubles. If not handled appropriately, it can lead to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMU). However, with a little mindfulness, you can tackle it easily.
The symptoms of high altitude sickness include:
- fatigue & headache
- nausea & vomiting
- shortness of breath
- loss of appetite & dizziness
- rapid heartbeat or pulse.
These may sound like regular symptoms, but if neglected, may as well prove to be life threatening too. Let’s have a look at how you can easily deal with mountain sickness by acclimatizing well.
Rest for the first few hours
This is the basic rule. As soon as you reach the destination, you should put your body to rest for at least six hours. Do not exhilarate and exhaust yourself the same day as you arrive. This might spoil the coming days for you. Over-exerting should anyways be avoided at any point in the journey. A close check should be kept on the children as they are the most excited.
Stay hydrated but don’t overdo
It is imperative that you have enough water intake and other fluids, but not to an extent of overflowing. Alcoholic drinks are a big no-no as they internally modify the working of the body. If you suffer from instant nausea at high altitudes, you must never indulge in liquor and any other drugs. Same goes for chewing tobacco, smoking and usage of anti-depressants pills.
Take the right amount of carbohydrates
Carbohydrates immensely energize and fill you as well, which is why you should really more on them. Do not take proteins which are hard to digest and would require more amount of physical activity to extinguish them. The body is mostly in motion within moving vehicles and hence may not take a high intake of heavy foods in a good way. This can result in vomiting and dizziness.
Carry Menthol and citrus candies
Taking a cue from the point above, it’s a personal key, I generally resort to. I feel if you inhale menthol stick right in time, it cuts off the dizziness right away. Having citrus candies also help in similar ways.
If your trip involves highest degrees to altitudes then you must ascend gradually. Meaning you should increase your altitude slowly. Do not climb 10000 feet in on go. Break the journey into parts and give your body enough time to adjust well to changing heights.
Stay at a less populated place
One trick is to avoid planning your stay in between bustling markets and crowded towns. Instead, go for a secluded homestay/cottage in one of the corners. Soak in the heights, look into the depths, watch the landscapes and get used to it. This the most natural way of adapting to the changing climate, temperature and heights.
Try not to sleep at high altitudes/during the day
This applies to the trekkers who hike through varying altitudes during the day. They must always try to get back to the base camp every evening and sleep at a relatively less altitude. It is because the body doesn’t acclimatize well while sleeping. And the trekkers are generally exhausted for the day to keep up during the nights. Non-trekkers should try not to sleep during the day and indulge in some activity or the other. Read my blog to know more about trekking tips for beginners.
Garlic can do miracles
Yes, you read that right! It might sound like a weird thing but it is one magic trick that not many are aware of. Garlic, chives and onions are miraculous in treating altitude sickness instantly. You should carry some of these for worst case conditions. This is most effective when eaten raw. But you might as well go for a garlic-heavy soup/broth as well. Underline this.
This should be the last option for anyone. I personally do not encourage taking tablets of any kind. I feel one can easily manage increasing altitudes if they are aware of certain do’s and don’t’s. But one must still carry a bunch of preventive medicines (which can include Ondem and Diaomax) for a critical condition. It is equally important to have these medicines prescribed by a doctor before having them.
Learn from the child
It has been noticed that children acclimatize better than the adults. It’s because they don’t think too much. Sometimes it’s more in our heads. Beginners usually fall prey to this. The more we take acclimatization normally, the less we suffer.
Apart from this, there are few thumb rules that one should swear by. One, you must see the nearest doctor in a critical situation to help gauge the exact condition of the patient and providing medical treatment that one may require. He might be suffering from Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). Two, you must descend as soon as possible once you see the sickness symptoms increasing.
Acclimatization varies person to person. So does the degree of altitude sickness. A normal person can manage well up to a height of 3000 feet. If you plan to travel beyond this height, you must keep an eye on how your body adjusts to the change in conditions. Though it is nothing to be petrified about too. It only takes a bit of care to avoid getting into extreme conditions.
Tell us what you think about this article and let us know your tips to have better acclimatization if any!