High Altitude Sickness is something that everyone climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro should be prepared for. Because of the quick elevation gain on Mt. Kilimanjaro, scores of climbers are forced to descend, try their attempt again, or just go home without reaching the highest point in Africa.
Most people can go to an altitude around 8,000 without too many problems, but climbing to 19,000 ft, usually in 5 to 6 days sends a huge proportion of climbers down early. The key to avoiding high altitude sickness on Kilimanjaro is going slow up the mountain, spending an extra day to acclimate (many people never do this), and the proper hydration and food. If you follow all these steps, your chances of summiting will increase tenfold.
Symptoms of high altitude usually begin with a severe headache (usually frontal) that sometimes gets worse when you bend over. This can also be because of dehydration, which is quite common on Kilimanjaro. If dehydration is ruled out, next step is to look out for Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). Basic signs of AMS usually happen within 6 to 12 hours after arriving at a high altitude, although it sometimes it can occur more than a day after.
The symptoms include headache, fatigue/weakness, loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting, light head or dizziness and difficulty sleeping. This alone is not fun, but it generally can be dealt with by not going up higher, or giong to a lower altitude, until the signs and symptoms are gone, which is usually 1 to 2 days.
AMS goes from the mild headache to more life-threating HACE and HAPE which can usually be seen with lack of coordination and being unable to walk a straight line (think drunk driving test) and confusion.
DOWNLOAD OUR TRAVEL GUIDES
Signs and Symptoms:
Headache, loss of appetite, nausea, or vomiting, fatigue or weakness,dizziness or light-headedness difficulty sleeping
Extreme Fatigue, breathlessness while resting, drowsiness, rapid,shallow breathing, coughing with frothy septum, blue or grey fingernails or lips, tightness in chest, or congestion, gurgling or rattling breaths
Change in the ability to think clearly, confusion, changes in behavior, lethargy, ataxia ( loss of coordination)