How To Avoid Altitude Sickness While Going Everest Base Camp Trek?

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Everest Base Camp Trek is a dream for many as it takes you to one of the most beautiful places in the world. Featured with the world’s highest peak with diverse Sherpa culture and the natural richness, it has so many things to offer. However, with exposure to high altitudes, altitude sickness also follows you during this trek. That’s the reason why most trekkers prepare themselves with physical training to adapt into changing heights.

Even if you are just hiking around this area, altitude sickness is the major concern. So, keeping this issue on the top line, is it always important to prepare from the basics to advance to avoid altitude sickness while going Everest Base Camp Trek?

But before that, let’s go through what altitude sickness is, its causes, and prevention. 

What Is Altitude Sickness?

Altitude Sickness is a common term you have been hearing during your high altitude treks. But what exactly is it? In simple terms, altitude sickness is a health condition that usually affects trekkers at high altitudes due to lack of enough oxygen in the body. It usually occurs above 3000 meters above sea level, as places higher than these altitudes have thin air and high pressure with low oxygen.

So it causes dizziness and other forms of health problems that might even threaten your life. Talking about the causes of altitude sickness, it occurs when the human body lacks the ability to adapt into the lower oxygen levels in high altitudes. For example, if you are hiking at a fast pace from 3000 meters to 4000 meters above sea level, there will be a drastic change in oxygen level in the air. It not only causes difficulty in breathing but also may cause fever, nausea, and vomiting. This situation can be defined as altitude sickness.

Altitude Sickness Source: Pinterest

Symptoms of Altitude Sickness

If you are already in high altitude, it may be easier for you to determine the symptoms of altitude sickness. The most common symptoms include headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and shortness of breath. In other cases, it can also cause trouble sleeping and loss of appetite.

In extreme cases, altitude sickness also leads to High-Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) and High-Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), which are considered more dangerous. These forms of illnesses will hamper your respiratory system as well as brain.

How Can We Prevent?

To prevent the risks of altitude sickness in Everest Base Camp Trek, you must go through pre-trek preparations. Having a healthy physical condition, consulting with doctors, and packing the altitude-friendly essentials will help you prevent this condition.

In the meantime, we recommend you not to take any caffeine, tobacco, and alcoholic products. It is always essential to stay hydrated and take enough rest and sleep before continuing your hike to high altitudes. 

Understanding altitude sickness and taking appropriate precautions can help individuals enjoy their time at high altitudes safely and comfortably. If you are planning a trip to high elevations like Everest Base Camp, it’s important to be prepared and aware of the symptoms and preventive measures for altitude sickness.  Here are some of the preparations you can go through:

Pre-Trek Preparations To Avoid Altitude Sickness

Source: Pinterest

Physical fitness and training

Preparation with physical fitness is a very important component to avoid altitude sickness during Everest Base Camp Trek. Trekkers must have a sound physical condition featuring fitness, strength, endurance, and stamina so that their body can adapt well into high altitudes. It is recommended to have cardiovascular and respiratory wellness to adapt to the altitude above 3000 meters. 

Since Everest Base Camp lies above 5000 meters above sea level, trekkers are highly prone to altitude sickness because of low oxygen. 

Physical fitness and training are also widely crucial as the EBC’s itinerary features around 14 days of long trek. It includes 6 to 7 hours of daily hike through the remote and rugged terrains of the Khumbu region. So to be able to hike in a clean way, your fitness counts the most.

Moreover, physical fitness not only impacts the body but also plays a significant role in mental well-being during high-altitude treks. Individuals who are physically fit tend to show greater mental strength which enables them to cope more effectively. 

Consultation with Doctor

Before going on the Everest Base Camp Trek, which is at 5000 meters above sea level, consultation with a doctor should be one of the first things on the to-do list.

This consultation will help you go through a detailed risk assessment and ultimately let you know what health measures to opt for and what to avoid. Usually, trekkers with less exposure to high altitudes and health problems are likely to suffer from altitude sickness. So they are provided with the essential safety measures by doctors.

Healthcare professionals know the trekkers’ health history, and they can spot any pre-existing conditions that may increase the likelihood of altitude-related diseases.

In the meantime, doctors/physicians can help you get personalized instruction to prevent the health crisis. Since they are aware of the symptoms of altitude sickness, they can even prescribe medications such as Diamox to get you better.

Packing Essentials

If you see the report, extreme temperature and weather patterns are some of the prominent factors that contribute to altitude sickness. So to tackle the harsh weather in Everest Base Camp, packing essentials plays a vital role.

The average temperature around the Everest Region ranges from 0 to 10 Degrees Celsius, so you should be weather-conscious. During the night times, the temperature can even drop to 0 Degrees Celsius, which might even lead to extreme altitude sicknesses like HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) and HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema).

Here, the basic agenda is to keep yourself warm. And there are also several other packing essentials considering your personal hygiene and physical health. Trekkers must acknowledge details about packing essentials, which are listed below:

  • Trekking Boots with ankle support to walk through the rocky terrain.
  • Trekking Backpack with a capacity of 50-60 liters to carry your essentials and gear.
  • Clothing Layers include base layers, fleece jackets, waterproof /windproof jackets and pants, and down jackets.
  • Sleeping Bag suitable for cold temperatures (rated for at least -0°C to 10°C).
  • Adjustable trekking poles to provide stability.
  • Medications such as Diamox (Acetazolamide)
  • Water purification tablets or a water purification system (like a SteriPEN)
  • First Aid Kit with essentials like band-aids, antiseptic wipes, and blister pads.
  • Toiletries and Personal Hygiene equipment like toilet papers, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, and towels.
Source: Pinterest

What is Acclimatization?

Acclimatization is the integral part of Everest Base Camp Trek. Since this trek takes you to 5364 meters above sea level, you are always in danger of altitude sickness. Acclimatization is one of the best measures to avoid altitude sickness during this trek.

Coming back to the topic, acclimatization is a process where the body gradually adjusts to the increasing altitude and decreasing oxygen level. While you set on a journey to Everest Base Camp, the air becomes thin leading to lower oxygen levels, which makes it difficult to breathe. This change in altitude and negative change in oxygen can cause altitude sickness, putting trekkers’ life in danger.

If you see it in a scientific way, the more you ascend higher, the more your body shows physiological changes. It happens because your body tends to improve its ability to function with low oxygen. The human body increases the production of red blood cells to keep yourself adapted to the condition. It showcases symptoms like heavy breathing to intake maximum oxygen from the environment during this scenario. However, it makes no sense in high altitude and trekkers end up suffering from AMS, HAPE, and HACE. 

The best way to acclimatize successfully and to lower the chance of altitude sickness is by gradual ascent, which allows the body to gradually adapt to the changing conditions. Such an approach normally includes resting at lower altitudes and not ascending more than 300-500 meters per day. Here’s how you can acclimatize during your Everest Base Camp Trek:

Gradual Ascent

Gradual ascent during the Everest Base Camp Trek also means hiking through the uphill trails slowly. It means that trekkers are recommended to make an ascent of around 300 to 500 meters every day, which keeps them out of danger.

The standard Everest Base Camp Trek route highly aligns with the idea as the 6 to 7 hours of trek feature altitude change of 300-500 meters. Trekkers are advised not to hurry during the hike and take rest in between the journey. Similarly, do not forget to eat healthy food and avoid caffeine and alcoholic beverages.

Hydration and Nutrition

Why is hydration and nutrition so important for acclimatization? It is simply because your body needs to retain enough energy to adapt into the changing environment. Without proper metabolism, your body cannot perform well in the high altitudes, which eventually results in altitude sickness.

That’s the main reason why trekkers need to drink plenty of water, and intake a balanced diet rich in carbohydrates, and proteins. Even if you don’t feel thirsty or hungry, it is very important to keep yourself full as there is always a long way to complete the Everest Base Camp trek.

Recognizing Symptoms

You must be medically aware at high altitudes such as Everest Base Camp. You also should know the basic first aid methods and should check for early signs of altitude sickness. It is recommended to monitor symptoms such as headache, fatigue, dizziness, and difficulty breathing

Always take first aid kits with you to act immediately. If symptoms get worse, relocate yourself to a lower altitude and consult a professional or a doctor to handle the situation.

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Kishor Shahi Thakuri

Kishor Shahi Thakuri

Kishor, a writer and trekker from Bagmati, Nepal, has accumulated extensive knowledge about Nepal and its hiking activities through years of experience working with various trekking agencies and organizations. He has a passion for trekking and has explored regions like Langtang, Kathmandu, and more.

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