It is important not to underestimate the serious effects of altitude. People die or sustain permanent brain damage as a result of not being aware of the issue. However, many thousands of people travel to high altitude without harm. It all depends on how much they understand and what they do.
Adaptation to altitude depends very much on the speed at which altitude is reached. It has little relationship to fitness and no relationship to age. At altitude I have seen many examples of fit 70 year olds out-performing youngsters less than half their age.
If you have previously trekked to altitude, and your ascent at that time was gradual, your experiences on our treks are likely to be similar. If you have had a bad experience you have to question whether your approach was sufficiently gradual or whether you might be a person who just does not do well at rarefied heights. If you have qualms or queries about this, I am happy to discuss it with you.
I have been taking trekkers to Nepal since 1978 and have never had anyone seriously ill with altitude. The important things are to have gradual ascent, time to adjust, rest days, and someone who can recognise early problems. All these requirements are features of any Footprints trip. We have structured our tours to be gradual. This often results in them being longer than offerings by other companies to allow time for rest days and acclimatization. And we believe that we should all enjoy the experience!
People respond differently to altitude however, so on our treks if someone is not acclimatizing well then alternatives will be arranged.
Most people experience some degree of breathlessness when above 3000m (10,000ft) , some have sleep disturbance and feel a loss of appetite. Some people get minor headache. All of these symptoms are for the most part quite transitory.
More serious symptoms can occur and may rarely result in death. Serious symptoms are much more likely if exposure is rapid, to extreme height and accompanied by physical exertion. Some individuals are more susceptible than others to the effects of altitude.
It is important to drink plenty of bottled water or tea and to move more slowly at altitude.
Drug prophylaxis can significantly reduce symptoms and risks from altitude. A recommended regime is as follows:Acetazolamide (Diamox) 250mg twice daily for at least 24hrs before ascent to altitude
500mg daily of the slow-release version of Diamox
Side effects from Diamox are common and may prove unacceptable for some individuals. They include mild diuresis (tendency to urinate) and tingling of fingers and toes. Both tend to diminish with continued use. Some individuals may get allergic rash from use of acetazolamide.
We suggest that you discuss these issues with your doctor. It is our strong recommendation that clients travelling to altitude take Diamox unless medically contraindicated.
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