Everest Base Camp Altitude Sickness

  • Last Updated on Aug 1, 2023

Discover crucial information about Everest Base Camp altitude sickness. Learn symptoms, prevention measures, and treatments to safely conquer the 17,598 ft peak. Navigate high altitudes confidently with our comprehensive guide.

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While embarking on a high-altitude trek like the Everest Base Camp trek, it is crucial to consider the challenges that accompany it. Altitude sickness, specifically Everest Base Camp Altitude Sickness, poses a significant challenge when trekking in the Himalayan foothills of the Everest region.

You may be wondering what Altitude Sickness exactly entails. Essentially, Altitude Sickness refers to the acute illness resulting from rapid ascent to higher altitudes.

As the altitude increases during the Everest Base Camp trek, the oxygen levels significantly decrease, and atmospheric pressure also diminishes. Early symptoms of altitude sickness include difficulty in breathing, dizziness, and loss of appetite.

Altitude sickness at higher elevations can be life-threatening if not promptly treated. The severity of altitude sickness ranges from mild to fatal. Regardless of age, gender, or physical fitness, all trekkers undertaking the Everest Base Camp trek are susceptible to altitude sickness. Adequate rest and proper acclimatization are essential to reduce the risk of altitude sickness.

However, this does not mean that you cannot enjoy the Everest Base Camp trek. If you experience signs of altitude sickness, it is crucial to halt your trek and descend until the symptoms subside.

Follow the vital instructions provided by professional guides and take necessary precautions to ensure the greatest adventure of your life.

Types of Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness and its effects vary from person to person and depend on various factors, including genetic makeup. Based on the symptoms and their severity, altitude sickness can be classified into three types:

  1. Acute Motion Sickness (AMS): AMS is a mild form of altitude sickness resulting from rapid ascent to high altitudes. Dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and severe headaches are some initial signs of AMS.
  2. High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE): HAPE occurs when fluid accumulates in the lungs due to rapid ascent to altitudes above 2,500 meters.
  3. High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE): HACE involves the accumulation of fluid in the brain and is more likely to affect individuals suffering from AMS. It is the most severe form of altitude sickness and can be fatal if not immediately treated.

Acclimatization for Everest Base Camp Altitude Sickness

Acclimatization is a crucial aspect of high-altitude trekking. During acclimatization, your body adapts to lower oxygen levels, freezing temperatures, and lower air pressure. In the Everest Base Camp trek, trekkers acclimatize in the commercial town of Namche (3,440m) for a day.

There are several acclimatization points, including hikes to Kunde, the Sherpa museum, Syangboche airstrip, and others. During this time, you can enjoy the stunning mountain vistas while allowing your body to adjust. Namche is the final acclimatization point before reaching higher elevations.

Acclimatizing in Namche is vital to combat altitude sickness. Trekkers typically acclimatize for a second time in Dingboche (4,440m). It is advisable to acclimatize every time you gain an additional 1,000 meters in altitude. Acclimatization allows your lungs to adjust to the thinner air, thereby preventing altitude sickness.

Essential Tips to Prevent Everest Base Camp Altitude Sickness

  1. Maintain a steady pace: It is essential to maintain a gentle and steady pace throughout the trek to avoid altitude sickness. Rushing increases the likelihood of altitude sickness by elevating breathing rates and causing restlessness and breathlessness.
  2. Consume ample carbohydrates: At higher altitudes, your body requires additional calories. Pack plenty of healthy snacks, including foods rich in whole grains, for the Everest Base Camp trek.
  3. Avoid alcohol: Alcohol, cigarettes, and certain medications such as sleeping pills can worsen symptoms of altitude sickness. Avoid drinking, smoking, or taking sleeping pills during the high-altitude trek. If you choose to drink alcohol, wait at least 48 hours to allow your body enough time to adjust before consuming it.
  4. Stay hydrated: Staying hydrated is crucial in preventing altitude sickness. Drink water regularly during your climb to maintain proper hydration.
  5. Sleep at lower altitudes: Altitude sickness often worsens at night while sleeping. Consider hiking during the day and descending to lower altitudes to sleep, especially if you plan on gaining more than 1,000 feet in altitude per day.
  6. Medication: Taking Acetazolamide (formerly known as Diamox) two days prior to your trip and during the trek can help prevent altitude sickness. However, you must obtain a prescription from your doctor. It's important to note that medication won't reduce symptoms once they have started; descending to a lower altitude is the most effective treatment in such cases.

Symptoms of Altitude Sickness

Symptoms of altitude sickness can range from mild to a medical emergency. Prior knowledge of these symptoms before traveling to higher altitudes can help prevent altitude sickness from becoming fatal.

Mild symptoms include:

  • Headache, nausea, dizziness
  • Feeling exhausted
  • Shortness of breath
  • Trouble sleeping

If you experience mild altitude sickness, it is advisable to stop trekking and descend to a lower elevation level. These symptoms usually disappear on their own once you descend to a lower altitude.

  • Severe symptoms include:
  • Intensified versions of mild symptoms
  • Feeling out of breath even when resting
  • Persistent coughing
  • Chest tightness
  • Double vision
  • Difficulty walking
  • Skin turning gray, blue, or paler than normal

If you notice any of these severe symptoms, descend to a lower altitude as soon as possible and seek medical attention. Severe altitude sickness can result in the accumulation of fluid in the lungs and brain, which can be fatal if left untreated.

Bottom Line

Since everyone's body reacts differently to high altitudes, it is challenging to make precise predictions. However, steady climbing and adequate preparation, as outlined in the tips above, serve as your best defense against altitude sickness.

If you have pre-existing medical conditions such as heart problems, shortness of breath, or diabetes, consult your doctor before embarking on the Everest Base Camp trek at high altitudes. These conditions may lead to additional complications if altitude sickness occurs during your Short EBC trek.

Suman Aryal

Suman Aryal

With over 15 years of experience in the tourism sector of Nepal, Suman is the Managing Director of Dream Heaven Adventure. His passion for trekking has taken him to nearly all of Nepal's popular regions, making him an authorized trekking and tour operator.

Suman has a particular affinity for traveling to the Himalayas, where he has gained deep knowledge about the region's religion, culture, and history. As a part-time blogger, Suman shares his research on the cultural and religious diversity of Nepal, providing his personal touch with insights from his decade-long experience. He also enjoys answering readers' queries with his expert knowledge and personal touch.