Mount Kilimanjaro Altitude Sickness - Prepare and Prevention

Mount Kilimanjaro Altitude Sickness: Prepare and Prevention

How to Avoid Altitude Sickness Kilimanjaro Mountain Climbing can Give to You

Here are the essential things our altitude sickness guide for Kilimanjaro climbs will include to ensure you have a successful expedition that does not involve altitude sickness:

Kilimanjaro Acclimatization and Altitude Sickness

When climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, safety is of the topmost priority: The 6,096-meter height of Kilimanjaro presents a unique set of challenges, the most dangerous of which is the Mount Kilimanjaro altitude sickness. Altitude sickness affects many people who climb more than 9,000 feet.

Physiological Consequences of the Mountain’s Elevation

As a result of the mountain‘s accessibility to hikers of all skill levels, Kilimanjaro has grown in popularity. A lack of ropes and climbing gear means that some people can miss the possibility of life-threatening situations that could arise due to the altitude.

As with Aconcagua and Denali, the summit of Kilimanjaro falls within the “extreme altitude” category as with Mt McKinley. Acclimatization is impossible due to the “ultra” elevations of Everest and K2.

Altitude: A Quick Review

The air at the top of Kilimanjaro is 49 percent less oxygenated than that at sea level. Rather than decreasing oxygen concentration, the atmosphere’s barometric pressure (a.k.a., “air pressure”) drops.

As air pressure lowers, the percentage of oxygen in the air remains the same at 20.9 percent. Fewer oxygen molecules are available for each air volume you inhale; to compensate for the lower air pressure; fluid can pool outside of cells, particularly around the brain and lungs, which are hazardous conditions.

Altitude Sickness: What Exactly Is It?

In mountain sicknesses, acute mountain sickness or AMS, high altitude cerebral edema or HACE, and high altitude pulmonary edema or HAPE are most common.

In addition, the Mt Kilimanjaro Altitude Sickness can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the severity of the symptoms, which can trigger immediate descent.

Let’s seize a closer peek at these situations.

Symptoms of Acute Mountain Condition

A doctor from the Institute of Altitude Medicine said that everyone over 6,000 feet could develop acute mountain sickness or AMS. One of the most common early signs of dehydration or overexertion is headaches. AMS is likely to be detected if additional symptoms are present. 

Symptoms of A Mild AMS

Some of the symptoms may be similar to a hangover (nausea, headache, tiredness, and loss of appetite). These symptoms should be reported to your guide immediately, and you should not continue if you have them. Rest and proper fluids are usually all that are needed to ease mild symptoms.

AMS of a Moderate Severity

You should descend to the last altitude at which you feel “good” if your symptoms of moderate Mount Kilimanjaro Altitude Sickness intensify, such as an intractable headache and dizziness, coughing, shortness of breath, nausea, and vomiting.

Painkillers and anti-nausea medications, which might mask deteriorating symptoms, should not be used to continue climbing.

Shockingly Severe AMS

Because of the risk of worsening symptoms, paying attention to one’s symptoms is essential when rising to higher altitudes. Life-threatening consequences, such as hyperventilation and asphyxiation, can arise from severe altitude sickness (AMS).

Severe headaches, ataxia (lack of motor coordination, stumbling), increased coughing, and shortness of breath are also possible symptoms. A severe case of acute mountain sickness (AMS) necessitates a patient’s removal from the mountain.

There are two possible sequelae of acute mountain sickness: HAPE or HACE.

Diagnosis of High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)

According to Basecamp MD, HAPE can occur if the pulmonary arteries are subjected to extreme pressure due to a lack of oxygen. The collection of fluid around the lungs is a result of this pressure.

A climber can develop HAPE even if he or she does not experience any signs of acute Mount Kilimanjaro Altitude Sickness.

Check out:

  • Scattered blood or mucus discharge
  • Unusual noises coming from the lungs
  • Extreme indifference
  • Respiratory difficulties
  • Lips becoming a deep shade of blue
  • There is a distinct absence of consistency and harmony.

Anyone who suspects they have a respiratory infection at a high altitude should seek medical attention first. An immediate evacuation to a medical facility and administration of oxygen are standard procedures when HAPE is suspected.

HACE occurs when blood oxygen levels fall, causing the brain to become oxygen-starved. 

HACE: A Cognitive Impairment at Elevated Altitude

It is imperative to get immediate medical assistance for HACE, a life-threatening condition. Disorientation, sluggishness, drowsiness, immobility, and irregular behavior are signs of fluid buildup around the brain. No climber is excepted.

Check out:

  • There will be fuzziness, disorientation, hallucinations, and garbled speech.
  • Unsteadiness, incoordination, and inability to walk
  • Conduct that defies logic
  • Vomiting and severe headaches are common side effects.

A patient with HACE must be airlifted to a hospital as soon as possible to receive treatment.

Sample Lake Louise Scoring Process
Sample Lake Louise Scoring Process

Mount Kilimanjaro Altitude Sickness Diagnosis

Acute Mountain Sickness is diagnosed by determining the patient’s symptoms. If you’re experiencing any symptoms during your daily health check, guides for Climbing Kilimanjaro will use a pulse oximeter to get a clearer picture of your situation.

A Guide to the Lake Louise Scoring Process

Climbers’ condition is diagnosed using the Lake Louise Scoring System, developed in 1991 and re-evaluated in 2018, which is still widely used. Kilimanjaro mountaineering guides use this approach to evaluate your physical state. The score measures the severity of your condition and assigns a numerical value to it.

Parameters for Headache

0: equates to a complete absence of any kind

1: A tingling sensation it

2: A slight headache

3: An incapacitating headache

Manifestations in the Gut

0: Means there’s an appetite

1: Nausea and anorexia

2: Slight nausea or vomiting

3: The inability to function because of severe nausea and vomiting

Weakness or Exhaustion

0: Not exhausted yet and not weak

1: Mild exhaustion or weakness at this point

2: Moderate exhaustion or weakness

3: Excessive tiredness and weakness, resulting in total incapacitation. 

Lightheadedness or Dizziness

0: Indicates a complete absence of dizziness or lightheadedness.

1: mild dizziness or a feeling of faintness

2: Minimal dizziness or lightheadedness

3: severe dizziness or lightheadedness that is debilitating

Altitude Sickness Kilimanjaro Clinical Assessment Score

In general, how did your AMS symptoms affect your daily life?

0: It doesn’t at all

1: There were symptoms, but they didn’t require a change in routine or activity.

2: As a result of my symptoms, I was forced to stop ascending or self-descending.

3: Requires an evacuation to a lower altitude

The Medical and Biological Sciences of Extreme Altitudes

Acclimatization is an Altitude Sickness Prevention Strategy.

Prevention of Acute Mountain Condition: Acclimation

As the name suggests, “acclimation” is a term used to describe the body’s response to a low-oxygen, low-pressure environment. On the first day, your body will begin compensating for the lack of these.

What you’ll notice:

  • Breathing faster and more profound.
  • At rest, the heart rate is elevated.
  • Risen blood pressure.

The following systems help your body adjust as you steadily ascend: Increasing the amount of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin produced.

The kidneys generate erythropoietin, a hormone that promotes the growth of red blood cells, causing an increased risk of dehydration due to a decreased plasma volume.

Kidney function is improved when excess bicarbonate ions are removed from the circulation.

A proper acclimatization program leads to higher and safer summit success rates because of these progressive adjustments. Traveling to a high altitude takes more time because your body has to get used to changing temperature and pressure.

“Hike high, sleep low” increases the likelihood of proper adaptation and reduces the frequency of mountain sickness by including acclimatization days and rest days.

Certain people appear to have no difficulty adapting to a new environment. Acclimatization is a matter of time; there are no secrets or hacks. On the other hand, Diamox has been shown to speed up the body’s natural acclimatization processes.

Preventing the Mount Kilimanjaro Altitude Sickness

Take a more extended journey: Instead of taking the quickest path up Mount Kilimanjaro, go for one that allows for adequate time for acclimatizing. Kilimanjaro ascent training and planning are also crucial.

Take it easy: Your mentors will recite the phrase “pole pole” (which means slowly, slowly in Swahili). Always enter camp as the last one to avoid tiredness.

Even if you’re in great shape, you still need to conserve energy and avoid exhaustion as much as possible. Fatigue is thought to play a vital role in the development of AMS.

Hydration is vital: It is essential to drink enough water to avoid dehydration, affecting your capacity to adapt to the new environment.

Check with your doctor before taking Diamox.

Retreat and keep your head down if you’re feeling ill at altitude.

Avoid narcotic pain remedies, alcohol, sleeping pills, and stimulants.

Inform your guide immediately if you have nausea, headache, or other symptoms.

Carbs, in particular, should be consumed in plenty. According to experiments conducted by the United States Army, carbohydrates promote ventilation and are the most efficient fuel for exertion at high altitudes.

Keep yourself warm at all times. Avoid hypothermia by removing wet garments as soon as possible.

What Role Does Altitude Training Play in the Process of Acclimatization?

Mountaineering lovers are increasingly embracing altitude training. Studies have revealed that athletes who use these training routines to increase their performance undergo a process known as “per-acclimatization.”

It’s possible to train in an altitude chamber, drift off to dreamland at night in sleep gear, or even be exposed to hypoxic air while lying in a hypnotic tent. To understand more about altitude training, check out our thorough guide.

Climbing Mount Meru or other mountains in your home country is the best way to prepare to go to Kilimanjaro. Even if it’s not practical or necessary for everyone, getting to a higher altitude might help you gauge how quickly your body adjusts to the change in temperature and avoid getting the Mount Kilimanjaro Altitude Sickness.

Altitude’s Influence on Your Present Condition

Your doctor will tell you if you have a medical condition that prevents hiking or flying at a high altitude. Many people with well-managed preexisting conditions can successfully climb Kilimanjaro.

Anyone who has a neurological condition, lung, or heart must get permission from a doctor before participating in one of our climbs. As a patient, you need to know how your current medications and medical conditions will interact with the high altitude. Getting travel insurance may be more challenging if you have a preexisting medical condition.

The Cheyne-Stokes Respiration Effects of Altitude in Sleep

Sleep disturbances are frequently caused by irregular breathing cycles at high altitudes, especially for travelers. Aside from being irritating and painful, this is not usually a sign of altitude sickness. According to the Institute for Altitude Medicine, the fight for breathing control when sleeping occurs in the body. The parasympathetic nervous system is told to breathe more deeply by the oxygen sensors but stops breathing by the carbon dioxide sensors.

Deep breathing is usually the result, followed by a pause in breathing and another deep breath when breathing is resumed. This is the typical pattern. For this condition, Diamox is a frequent remedy.

Concerns About Kilimanjaro’s Other Health Risks

Your health is your top concern while climbing, but you must be proactive in protecting yourself against Mount Kilimanjaro altitude sickness and other harsh weather-related concerns.


Don’t stay in damp clothes. At higher altitudes on the mountain, slight chills from precipitation or perspiration can swiftly turn into hypothermia. The temperature might change swiftly; carry adequate clothing for your daypack as you ascend.

The Ultra-Violent Rays of the Sun

Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin, especially the head and neck, with a factor of at least 40. While ascending, the sun’s rays grow more robust as there is less air to absorb UV energy.

Wear sunglasses that block 100% of UV radiation as a first step. Wraparound sunglasses help shield your eyes from the UV rays reflected off snow and ice. Snow blindness isn’t common, but it can happen if your eyes aren’t adequately protected from the elements.

There are difficulties with the gastrointestinal system.

The potential for gastrointestinal distress is always present while traveling to remote areas.

Gastrointestinal Problems

This can be caused by various factors, including poor food, inadequate hygiene, and direct contact with microorganisms and viruses. Before you eat, use an antibacterial gel or wipes to clean your hands.

You are especially vulnerable to stomach problems before a climb. Avoid street sellers, salads, tap water, and fruit with skin that can’t be peeled out. To ensure the safety of our guests, we meticulously enforce food safety regulations and only serve filtered water on the mountain.

Precautions for Kilimanjaro Climbing

All of us at climbing Kilimanjaro are committed to your safety. Licensed guides from Kilimanjaro are on hand to ensure your safety, but they need your help. Your guide should be contacted instantly; if you become ill in any way. Keep a close check on your fellow travelers and alert your guide if you see someone acting strangely or showing signs of distress.

Pulse oximeter readings, questions about your mood, and a chest check for suspicious lung sounds are all part of your guide’s daily routine. Catching minor Mount Kilimanjaro altitude sickness early; is the best way to prevent it from getting worse.

Climbing Kilimanjaro Team always has emergency oxygen and stretchers on the mountain. We have linked up with Kilimanjaro air rescue if a climber is wounded and cannot continue.

Other Important Things to Know About Mount Kilimanjaro Altitude Sickness

  • Kilimanjaro altitude sickness medication:
  • Kilimanjaro altitude sickness death – A couple of individuals have passed on because of rockslides and steep segments of the mountain. The Bolt Ice sheet course was shut for a long time and just resumed in December 2007 because of climber security concerns. Somewhere in the range of years 1996 and 2003, 25 individuals passed away while attempting to summit the highest point of Mount Kilimanjaro. The majority of them died from high height complications, injury, a ruptured appendix, and pneumonia. The demise rate per 100 climbers is 0.1.

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