Kilimanjaro Altitude Sickness

About Altitude Sickness

If climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is in your bucket list, then sooner or later you will hear about altitude sickness.

For those who are unknown with the facts of altitude illness, here are the answers to the most common questions regarding mountain sickness.

The definition of altitude

High Altitude: 1500 – 3500 m (5000 – 11500 ft)

Very High Altitude: 3500 – 5500 m (11500 – 18000 ft)

Extreme Altitude: above 5500 m (18000 ft)

Altitude sickness is various symptoms that can come about when someone ascends to a high altitude too rapidly, without sufficient acclimatization.

The body can adjust to the reduced air pressure at a higher altitude, but only at a rate of about 300 m (1000 ft) altitude gain per day. If you ascend faster, then you may develop altitude sickness.

There are three main forms of altitude sickness:

  • AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) – very common when climbing Kilimanjaro.
  • HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema)-a fluid buildup in the lungs.
  • HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema) – a fluid buildup in the brain.

Both HAPE and HACE are potentially serious but are thankfully extremely rare during a well planned Kilimanjaro climb.

There are also other symptoms you are likely to experience during a Kilimanjaro climb due to the altitude. They are considered normal and shouldn’t worry you:

  • Breath faster
  • Out of breathe sooner
  • Experiencing periodic breathing at night (where you stop breathing for up to 15 seconds, and then breathe very fast to make up for it, scary but harmless)
  • Wake up frequently at night
  • Urinate a lot more often than usual

A few tips on avoiding altitude sickness

  • Keep drinking
  • Make sure you eat plenty
  • Keep warm
  • Keep your day pack light
  • Pole pole- Slow and Steady

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