Altitude sickness


As you intend to climb Mt. Pulag, you should be aware of the possibility of being affected with altitude sickness. Although it seldom happens to TRIPinas’ clients (as we acclimatize by spending overnight at Camp2), it’s better to keep these information in mind.

What is altitude sickness?
Altitude sickness can occur at any altitude over 2500 meters (8200 feet) above sea level. It is the result of the air density drop (oxygene and nitrogen) while climbing up.

Who is prone to having altitude sickness?
Anybody can get altitude sickness. Children are more susceptible and need to be supervised more closely. It is risky to trek with infants who cannot tell you they are not feeling well.
Even an athlete, someone physically fit or an experienced trekker can get altitude sickness. Actually even someone who has successfully climbed at a particular elevation without being affected by altitude sickness can get affected the next time he/she will reach the same elevation.

How do I know if I or someone in the group has altitude sickness?
Some of its early (mild) symptoms are headache, fatigue at minimal exertion, unusual breathlessness and loss of appetite.

What should I do if I or someone in the group has altitude sickness?
If you notice that you or your group mate have these symptoms, always assume that it is altitude sickness. DO NOT CONTINUE TO ASCEND. The person affected must stay at current altitude until symptoms have gone away. This usually takes one or two days. If the symptoms go away, you can proceed with the ascent.
However, if the symptoms get worse (i.e : increasing fatigue, severe headache, vomiting and loss of coordination), it is MANDATORY that the person affected descend. Do not delay. A person suffering from altitude sickness may not have clear thinking. Some may voluntarily go down while others may refuse. Whether the affected person submits to the descent or not, he/she must never descend alone. It is best to start descending while the sick person is still able to walk.

Please refer to this chart (prepared with the datas of The Himalayan Rescue Association) to help you evaluating your condition

1 - Check if you have any of these symptoms and count the number of points
·         Headache: 1 point
·         Nausea / motion sickness: 1 point
·         Loss of appetite: 1 point
·         Dizziness: 1 point
·         Insomnia / difficulty to sleep: 1 point
·         Localized oedema on feet or hands: 1 point

·         Headache that is not relieve after taking a pain reliever (Aspirin or Paracetamol): 2 points
·         Vomiting: 2 points
·         Breathless when exercising: 2 points
·         Change of behavior: 2 points

·         Don't feel like urinating anymore: 4 points
·         Breathless at rest, extreme/unusual fatigue without exercising: 4 points
·         Loss of coordination: 7 points

 ü  If you get 1 to 3 points,  you probably suffer of light altitude sickness. Take some aspirin / paracetamol and stay for 24 hours at your current elevation.

 ü  If you get 4 to 6 points,  you may suffer of moderate altitude sickness.. Rest, take some medication, don't go higher and check the evolution after resting. If after resting you are still affected with mountain sickness, descend.

 ü  If you get more than 6 points,  you suffer an acute mountain sickness. Descend immediately with the help of someone.  You should descend 500 meters (1640 feet) or more, until you feel better.

How to prevent altitude sickness?
Following these basic rules will greatly help you avoiding altitude sickness :
  •          Ascend slowly – Never rush in the mountain.
  •          Hydrate well and frequently (2 to 3 liters water per day)
  •          Avoid Alcohol and coffee
  •          Eat and rest well
  •          Beyond 2500 (8200 feet) meters above sea level, do not ascend more than 500 meters (1640 feet) a day.