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Experts Corner: Altitude Sickness (Part One)

By Rosanna Terberg in Ask an Expert, The Himalaya - 09th June 2009

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As I mentioned the other day, I've been getting advice about my trip from an expert in trekking holidays in the Everest region. The advice I've received from Kirsty is so good, I've had a chat with her and asked her permission to share some of it on the blog for the benefit of others who are interested in the Everest Base Camp Trek.

Here is the first part of an email she sent me:

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Kirsty Parsons

Dear Rosanna,

I'd like to offer some information and reassurances to put your mind at ease.

Firstly, although most people trekking at high altitudes will suffer some mild symptoms of altitude sickness such as headaches, nausea, loss of appetite and disturbed sleep, relatively few people actually develop anything more serious.

Acclimatisation is the key to preventing symptoms developing and, at Mountain Kingdoms, the trekking company I work for, we ensure that our trekking itineraries have plenty of time built into them for acclimatising to higher altitudes. These include rest days and ample time for steady, gradual ascent.

Like other companies, our treks are led by highly experienced local guides who are all trained in identifying and managing the symptoms of altitude-related illness. They will ensure that trekkers in their care walk very slowly, keep hydrated and advise on medication and the correct course of action to help alleviate symptoms before they develop into anything more serious.

Kirsty at Kala Pattar

It is essential that you let your trek leader know if you are feeling unwell; hiding or ignoring your symptoms is potentially very dangerous. I am delighted to say that as a result of our carefully designed itineraries and expert trek leaders, Mountain Kingdoms have experienced very few cases of acute altitude sickness in the 21 years we have been running treks in the Everest region.

However, if symptoms do persist or get worse, then your guide would make sure you descend quickly to an altitude where you will very soon start to feel better. In the worse case scenario, where emergency evacuation is required, a helicopter can be called by radio communications.

Drink lots!

You should follow advice from your guide about what to eat, stay hydrated, avoid alcohol and use a high factor sunscreen. Prevention is definitely the key to avoiding illness at altitude so, if you follow a common-sense approach both before you depart and during your trek, you should find that you stay fit and healthy and enjoy your Everest Base Camp trekto the maximum.

Best Regards, Kirsty

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