How to Avoid Altitude Sickness in Nepal → Trekker Tips

Trekking in Nepal is the perfect way to explore the country's stunning charm. But beware, altitude sickness claims the lives of countless mountain trekkers every year. Here's what you need to know.

AMS - Acute Mountain Sickness - is a threat to your health, there has been a spike in the number of cases reported in the past year. Many trekkers have required emergency evacuation to lower altitudes.

What is Altitude Sickness?

Altitude sickness becomes a major risk above 2,400 meters (8,000 feet). Most people will feel short of breath as they acclimatise, however headaches, vomiting, difficulty sleeping, and the onset of pulmonary oedema or fluid on the lungs are serious symptoms

It is very important to acclimatise slowly and most guides will ensure you sleep at a lower altitude to the maximum reached in the day.

It is also important not to get dehydrated and to pace yourself.

Altitude sickness can be fatal and the onset of pink frothy liquid round the mouth and nose, breathlessness at rest, severe headaches, lack of co-ordination and vomiting should be treated as AMS and the person will need to descend rapidly. Descent is the only treatment for this very serious condition.

Where Does Altitude Sickness Occur?

Any Himalaya trek out of Nepal, Bhutan, India, Pakistan is obviously a risk, but anywhere above 2,400 meters. Many people who land in Cusco, Peru intending to trek the Inca Trail become affected. The Atlas mountains in Morocco are also a risk zone. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania/Kenya is also responsible for a number of cases. Few of the European Alpine resorts are above 2,400 meters. However many resorts in the USA, mainly Colorado, are closer to 3000 meters.

Altitude Sickness Acclimatisation

Don't fly directly to a high altitude destination, stop off somewhere to acclimatise. Inca Trail trekkers should spend a day or two in Cusco (but be warned, it's high altitude anyway). Colorado skiers should acclimatise in Denver.

The rule for trekkers is 'climb high, sleep low'. So ascend to a new height during the day, but descend a little to sleep at night. The zig-zag route allows your body to adjust to the low oxygen pressure.

Don't take short cuts - if a guide suggests he can do an 8-day trek in 5, it's a sure sign he doesn't follow the 'sleep low' rule. Going straight up all day everyday is a recipe for disaster. If you don't have the time for a lengthy trek, make time, or pick a different trek.

2 Comments

  • bhanu adhikari said

    Dear writer.
    This is a beautiful and helpful article for Nepal adventure trekking lover. It helps a lot for trekker to pretend from AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness).
    Hop to see more and helpful article about Nepal trekking.
    Cheers

  • Bibek Neupane said

    You can practice some deep breathing exercises to work up all of your lung's alveoli, prior and during the trek. In fact, It should be an everyday habit to breathe deep and long.
    Also, the altitude in Himalaya is far more higher than 2400 meters. The most popular trek, Annapurna Circuit trails touches the altitude of 5400 Meters! Half of this trek is above 2500 meters.

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