07 MAY

What to expect before you go on a trek!

Mrunalini Kohat

This article is especially for the newbie trekkers and those who are planning to trek 10,000 ft. and above for the first time.

Excited? Check

Planning? Still in process

Ya. That’s fine

But it is equally important to be well aware of the weather conditions and your body and what you must expect at high altitudes before you set out for the hike.

After all, trekking up to 10,000.ft above the ground is no joke!

Knowing what you are likely to experience will alleviate some anxiety you may have about it.

Rarified Air

As matter of fact, you must know that anything above 8000ft. from sea level is higher altitude. At this type of terrain, you will definitely see a drop in barometric pressure.

To break it down,

The amount of air you breathe at ground level has more concentrated oxygen molecules. But as you go up the hill, this density decreases due to low pressure. This lack of oxygen in air sensed by our carotid bodies causes’ Hyperpnoea.

Hyperpnoea results in an increase of pulse rate and more red blood cells flow, which is not good. Such a traffic of RBCs can cause a blood clot, especially during the respites.

You will also experience the need for urinating more often as your body tries to get rid of the excess of fluids in your body.

To overcome such problems, here are few simple tips:

Keep exercising pressure breathing.

This process will force out the carbon dioxide sitting in your lungs. With most of the CO2 out of the system will make space for more oxygen helping you with shortness of breath.

Keep yourself hydrated.

This process will force out the carbon dioxide sitting in your lungs. With most of the CO2 out of the system will make space for more oxygen helping you with shortness of breath.

Have more carbs in your diet instead of fats.

Carbohydrates will provide more energy as it requires less oxygen to metabolize than fats and helps prevent fatigue.

If you don’t want to bonk on every other day, you need to eat properly and gain as much energy you can to stay fit and enjoy your adventure.

Simple things can get you tired

Everything you do at altitude will feel harder than it does at home even if it means basic stretching exercise or stuffing your sleeping bag. Do not be discouraged, let your body cope up with the surroundings. Slow down and immerse yourself as you trek for the adventure.

Many times, trekkers can very well adjust with the altitude. As we are on trekking expedition it becomes ten times more significant that we keep our health in check. Keeping a track of responsiveness of our body can help us in many ways.

Change in appetite, feeling short of breath, restless and extreme headache can be a bit common, however, that is altitude sickness comes in.

Something you should know about Altitude sickness

The serious risks involved with high altitude hiking includes Acute Mountain Syndrome, HAPE and HACE.

I’m not trying to scare anyone but when it comes to health, prevention is always better than cure.

As you feel certain symptoms like nausea, lack of appetite, Fatigue, Anorexia, palpitations, you can count on the fact that AMS has kicked in your system.

AMS tends to occur within a few hours into high altitude. Given the immune system, AMS is self-treatable, but it requires short-term nursing and moving to a lower altitude before it gets any worse.

Trekkers tend to ignore these small hints given by the body taking it as normal, but that only results in something which potentially puts you at greater risk.- High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE).

HAPE

It is commonly known as Fluid on lungs.

HAPE mostly results from exposures to altitudes more than 6560ft. A person having HAPE can actually die due to excess of fluids present in lungs.

To explain in simple terms, it likes drowning in your own waters.

Given the immunities, some may feel slightly affected while others feel awful. Immediate descent and medical attention are the only options when it comes to HAPE.

HACE is caused to excess accumulation fluid into the cerebral area around the brain.

To go into details, uncharacterized behavior is exhibited by the person suffering from Altitude cerebral sickness along with clumsiness, restless and loss of consciousness. Just like the HAPE, immediate descent is a must. Diamox and medicinal drugs prescribed for such situations should be administered. Pressure bags and oxygen can help in buying more time to reach the medical centre.

Say NO to Quack treatments

On the similar lines, many ‘Quack’ treatments and untested remedies claim to prevent AMS. These treatments only slow down the symptoms of AMS which later on aggravates and have other dangerous side effects.

Only Diamox also was known as acetazolamide is safe for this purpose although it has minor side effects and funny taste.

Now time for some Golden Rules:

As you ascend, keep yourself in check. Slightest of change in your breathing, appetite can be the symptom of AMS.

If you feel unwell, you are suffering from AMS, until proven otherwise.

Do not become the experiment for quack treatment. Before it gets worse, descend immediately.

In my next I’ll be diving into deeper aspects of AMS and preventive measures to abide on hiking at high altitudes.

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