AMCI Basic Mountaineering Course (BMC) 2002
High Altitude ClimbingMt. Apo of Mindanao is the highest volcanic mass in the archipelago and the highest point in the islands. Some books measured it at 3,144 meters others at 2,953 meters above sea level. Nevertheless, it only means one thing for us, High Altitude!
II. HIGH ALTITUDE SICKNESS
What is meant by High Altitude?
Some formal medical definitions are as follows:
a. High Altitude : 1500 – 3500 meters (5000 – 11500 ft)
b. Very High : 3500 – 5500 meters (11500 – 18000 ft)
c. Extremely High : above 5500 meters
What is Altitude Sickness?
Altitude Sickness comprises all the problems associated with not feeling well at an altitude; it varies from individuals, speed of ascent or physical conditioning on a particular climb.
Normal Physiologic changes that occurs to every person who goes to altitudes:
- hyperventilation or breathing fast
- shortness of breath during exertion
- increase urination (if you are not, you maybe dehydrated)
- awakening frequently at night
- weird dreams
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS:
* Mild Symptoms are headache with any one or more of the following symptoms:
- dizziness (which is not related to intoxication)
- difficulty sleeping
- loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting
- fatigue or weakness
* Severe Symptoms are severe headache, breathlessness, a dry irritate cough (which may progress to a production of pink, frothy sputum), lack of coordination and balance, irrational behavior, drowsiness and unconsciousness. BUT WE WILL NOT GET TO THIS STAGE! RIGHT?!
PREVENTIVE MEASURES AGAINST HIGH ALTITUDE SICKNESS
a. Ascend slowly – have frequent rest, if you reach high altitude by trekking, acclimatization takes place gradually and you are less likely to be affected.
b. Drink extra fluids. Mountain air is dry and cold and moisture is lost as you breathe. Evaporation of sweat is lost unnoticed and results in dehydration.
c. Eat light, high carbohydrate meals for more energy.
d. Avoid alcohol as it may increase the risk of dehydration. Drinking doesn’t means your hydrating!
e. Avoid sedatives or better yet avoid illegal drugs so that we won’t kick you off the mountain! Get my point!
EMERGENCY ACTION PRINCIPLE / TREATMENT:
a. For mild symptoms, resting at the same altitude until recovery is usually effective. If you feel that you’re suffering from altitude sickness, stop trekking, notify your climbing buddy and take a rest.
b. Paracetamol or Aspirin can be taken for the headaches.
But drug treatment should never be used to avoid descent or to enable further ascent.
c. If symptoms persist or becomes worse. Immediate Descent is necessary, even 500 meters can help alleviate the sickness.
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