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                    Altitude Sickness – A Likely Yet Avoidable Trekking Complication

                    The excitement, thrill and beauty of trekking in Nepal are directly proportional to elevation. This is because as you ascend higher the nature starts to reveal her latent magnificence, relatively honest and candid natives are encountered and many forms of pollution start to almost disappear. However, there is a dark side of trekking at higher altitude, usually ignored, which may even claim the lives of trekkers. The culprit is known as “Altitude Sickness” which is to a great extent preventable and also curable if proper measures are taken as soon as the warnings show up. Every trekker traveling above 8000 ft. should be aware of the symptoms of the illness due to altitude.

                    According to netdoctor.co.uk, a leading health websie, at least seven cases of fatality due to altitude sickness occur each year among 50,000 trekkers into Nepal. Gokyo valley notorious as “death valley” is said to claim at least 3 lives per year. It is really unfortunate that such tranquil and spellbinding places under Himalaya where monks have meditated for centuries and where many yogis have acquired fortunes of wisdom turn into a place of misfortune. Though some hardy and “in-form” trekkers hold that altitude sickness attacks only the feeble and old people, nevertheless, data reveal that old people generally are at low risk of contracting altitude related problems than the young ones. This is probably because young trekkers are eager to rush as further as they can, compared to the matured travelers since the major causative factor of altitude sickness is ascending more than prescribed height in a day.

                    The altitude sickness can occur in 3 forms: mild altitude sickness or acute mountain sickness (AMS), high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) and high altitude cerebral edema (HACE). The latter two complications are deteriorated conditions of AMS and also life-threatening. So, if proper attention is paid during the AMS stage then further complications can be avoided. Common symptoms of altitude sickness are difficulty in breathing, headache, nausea and vomiting but not limited to these as a statement by Dr. Shilm that has been quoted or paraphrased in many articles and books goes – “until proven otherwise, if you feel unwell in altitude it’s altitude sickness “. In case of HAPE and HACE, victims show much severe symptoms like severe headache, confusion, pink frothy sputum, bluish lips, elevated temperature etc. In such serious cases, emergency measures should be sought immediately like taking to the nearest health center via porter or horse or if possible, summoning rescue helicopters etc. Even though the symptoms are not severe to that extent in the mild form of altitude illness, it must not be taken lightheartedly which may eventually worsen if left untreated.

                    The first and foremost treatment to altitude related complications is descending down and halting your program of going up. Many modern treatments and herbs have been advertised in the market as prevention to the altitude sickness. BEWARE OF QUACKERY! The only drug known currently to prevent AMS is acetazolamide or Diamox. So administer the drug to the victim or yourself in case you observe any of the symptoms mentioned in the previous paragraph. Highland dwellers and some trekkers claim that garlic is panacea to altitude related problems but though it may be beneficial, it must not be taken as a substitute to the medicine though combination of the two won’t have any negative reaction.

                    Prevention is better than cure. AMS can be avoided simply by following the simple thumb rule: at height above 3000 meter, the difference in elevation between two consecutive overnight destinations should be less than 500 m. That is, if you stay at 3000 meter on Day 06 and go high up to 4000 meter on the 7th day, you should descend back to the place at or lower than 3500 m. for the night stay. Also, it will help to acclimatize few days in lower elevations before passing over high altitude. Plenty of water should be taken and it is better if you can avoid alcohol in higher altitude instead of emulating the Sherpas or Bhotias who are immune to the complications of altitude. To reiterate, if you sense any symptom of illness then do not go further up but rather descend as soon as possible. Take Diamox in case of headache or nausea, keeping aside the opinion on the medicinal side effects for some time.

                    Trekking is not an extreme adventure but an activity that can be undertaken by anyone healthy enough to walk. As pleasurable activity trekking can be, it can equally be dangerous if certain simple precautions are not followed. Altitude sickness is another such “danger” which can be prevented easily by simply following this basic advice- walk slower as you go higher!

                    Put Down Weight While Walking Up in Nepal

                    In today’s hectic and synthetic world, many people are suffering from obesity that eventually leads to physical diseases, stress and discomfort, apart from the unimpressive look. The ones wishing to get rid of a few pounds are spending thousands of dollars and even resorting to the unhealthy measures that are advertised in the popular media. While only a few are benefiting from such unnatural applications, 2-3 weeks trek along with the observation of finest views, sundry culture and a superfluity of tourists may be considered as a good alternative. The mountains of Nepal welcome such ‘health-motivated’ tourists in different seasons of a year. For this you need not go on any strict diet-control, sleep less or follow a harsh exercise routine. Instead, you will march few hours along the hills, take enough protein and calories consuming the staple cuisines, have a dreamless and enough slumber and free you from any worries.

                    Though a magical plummet as they show in infomercials is not to be expected, however, many people have experienced significant reduction in their weight after the trekking. So, this can also be a motivation factor to continue short hikes or simply daily walks after you return back to your place. But this comes at cost of something, your willingness to undertake an average 5 hrs walk/day. Don’t worry of the terrifying altitude figures since you will acclimatize and gradually move to your destination. The treks are of corse strenuous at times but the rewards are priceless.

                    Having said that, the ones with low weight need not discard it thinking “this is not for me”. Naturally, you will eat more to replenish the energy you lost. The only difference is those longing to lose their weight will prioritize proteins while the ones who need to gain weight will devour more fats and calories. Mind that, even in case there is no major difference in the weights previous and after the trek, you will no doubt have amplified energy, increased stamina and a renewed vitality.

                    There are scores of possible trekking options in the northern territory of Nepal, from the popular Annapurna and Everest trek to less popular but challenging treks of Manaslu, Dolpo region, Rolwaling etc. So if you are interested in artistic and cultural aspects of the Himalayas, can take few days off from the work, want to start weight management but confused how to begin, CLICK HERE and choose a trek that best suits your needs.

                    Quote of the Day…

                    You can travel the world and never leave your chair when you read a book.
                    ~ Sherry K. Plummer