Halt your ascent or descend up to 500m
If you are experiencing symptoms of mild altitude sickness, do not ascend any further for at least 24 to 48 hours, until your symptoms have cleared. You may wish to descend up to 500m to help ease symptoms and speed up acclimatisation. If the symptoms of mild altitude sickness do not go away after 48 hours you need to descend by at least 500m (1,600 feet) and not climb again until they have completely disappeared.
To aid acclimatisation and ease symptoms of mild altitude sickness:
- Do not exercise
- Keep hydrated
- Avoid alcohol
- Do not smoke
- Do not use sleeping pills
- Eat a high-calorie diet
- Rest as much as possible
Always ensure you tell your group how you are feeling so they can be aware to look out for symptoms of severe altitude sickness.
Oxygen treatment can be helpful to ease symptoms of altitude sickness to allow you to descend and acclimatise. Oxygen treatment is not a replacement for descending and acclimatising.
Paracetamol or ibuprofen can be used to treat pain or discomfort from headaches caused by mild altitude sickness.
Promethazine (Phenergan) tablets can be used to treat nausea and sickness associated with mild altitude sickness. Promethazine is an antihistamine that also acts as an anti-emetic (it stops nausea & vomiting).
Diamox (acetazolamide) can help to both ease the symptoms of, and prevent mild altitude sickness. It helps to correct the chemical imbalance in your brain caused at high altitudes. Diamox can help to reduce the recovery time from mild altitude sickness from 24-48 hours to 12-24 hours, provided you do not ascend further in this time.
Diamox can also help to prevent altitude sickness in people who are ascending quickly without time to properly acclimatise. There is still, however, the risk of serious altitude sickness if you do not properly acclimatise, which can result in a medical emergency. Rapid ascent is not recommended.
Diamox can occasionally cause mild side effects. These can include slight numbness or tingling in the face, fingers or toes, some loss of appetite, taste disturbance, flushing, thirst, headache, dizziness, fatigue, and irritability. Most doctors suggest taking a trial dose of Diamox for a couple of days before your trip to ensure you do not suffer any adverse reactions (this is normally half a tablet daily for 2-4 days).
Remember, even in those taking Diamox, it is still important to properly acclimatise. You should never ascend further until your symptoms have completely gone and you are properly acclimatized to your current altitude. Do not use Diamox to push through the symptoms of altitude sickness and continue to climb, this is extremely dangerous and can be fatal.