Acute altitude sickness on Mount Kilimanjaro
Are there risks that come with high-altitude trekking on Kilimanjaro? In the acute altitude sickness on Mount Kilimanjaro, we refer to various sicknesses that come with high altitude, and sometimes it is called altitude sickness, and this comes with severe consequences as well as in different forms, including High Altitude Cerebral Edema and High Altitude Pulmonary Edema. These should be the biggest concerns for those who wish to explore the Kilimanjaro Mountain because all of these conditions are associated with the climbing places that are at high elevations. Today, we thought we’d explain the process of acclimatization on Kilimanjaro and also provide you with a list of the possible sickness types and their symptoms, which we believe will help you plan your Kilimanjaro climbing safari more effectively. The information also contains some of the preventive measures that you should take once one of the conditions has happened or you have experienced it. This is only information for you to go with, but it should not be used for treatment, and thus you will need to see a professional medical doctor if the sickness does persist.
Getting used to Kilimanjaro Mountain Climbing (acclimatization)
Acclimatization is the process by which the body adjusts to decreased oxygen levels in the air, and it can only be accomplished by spending time at various altitudes before moving higher. The link between air oxygen content, air density, and altitude changes is crucial to understanding acclimatization. At sea level, oxygen makes up around 21% of the air, and barometric pressure is around 760 millimeters of mercury (milliliters of mercury). The amount of oxygen in the air stays about the same as one travels in altitude (up to around 21,000 meters, or 69,000 feet), but air density reduces, putting less pressure on packing oxygen molecules closer together (imagine oxygen molecules moving further and further away as altitude increases). The barometric pressure at 3,600 meters (12,000 feet), for example, is roughly 480 mmHg. Because oxygen molecules are more widely spread in any given column of air with lower air density, there is less oxygen accessible per breath.
Levels of Blood Oxygen Saturation
Even while at rest, the body responds to this drop in oxygen availability by breathing more rapidly and deeply to raise blood oxygen levels (i.e., blood oxygen saturation or SO2). As one ascends to greater elevations, the chart below depicts the typical profile of oxygen saturation in a person’s blood. At 6,000 meters (just before the top of Kilimanjaro), blood oxygen saturation (SO2) drops to approximately 80% for the average individual.
Kilimanjaro is divided into four altitude zones.
There are three different height zones on Kilimanjaro.
- Elevation (2,500–3,500 meters)
- 3,500–5,500 meters above sea level.
- Extremely high altitude (above 5,500 meters).
The majority of people can climb up to 2,400 meters without suffering the effects of altitude. However, as one moves into the high altitude zone, variations in the amount of oxygen available start to affect one’s physiology. Though there is very little association between factors such as gender, age, fitness, etc., and one’s vulnerability to these changes, it is very difficult to anticipate. However, we are aware that the main factor causing AMS is ascending too quickly. Dehydration and excessive exercise at altitude are additional risk factors. Going too high, too quickly, being careful not to overexert oneself, and maintaining a healthy level of hydration are all part of the right acclimatization plan.
When is the acclimatization line while climbing Kilimanjaro Mountain?
The phrase “acclimatization line” refers to the stage at which an individual has symptoms of altitude sickness. Say, for example, that a person’s acclimatization line on day one is 3,000 meters. The body would acclimate to that altitude after walking to this height and staying there for a night or two, and that person’s line might shift to 3,800 meters. If they then ascend to 3,700 meters, they will still be symptom-free, but if they ascend to 4,000 meters, they will start to experience the effects of altitude sickness.
The body can continue to acclimatize quite close to one’s acclimatization line, and after a day or two of rest at that altitude, symptoms will typically go away. However, it is nearly a given that symptoms will intensify and that additional acclimatization will not take place if one climbs higher than their acclimatization line. To notice improvement, it’s necessary to get below the point where symptoms first appeared. This last argument exemplifies why ascending with any signs or symptoms of altitude sickness is so perilous.
The body gets used to higher altitudes.
The good news is that your body is highly adept at adjusting to alterations in its surroundings. Your body can adjust to high altitudes given enough time. It is important to note four key body changes. As you go up:
- The breathing gets deeper and quicker.
- More oxygen may be carried in the blood due to an increase in red blood cells, which also increases pulmonary capillary pressure.
- This forces blood into parts of the lungs that are not used when breathing at sea level. More of a certain enzyme is created, causing hemoglobin to release oxygen to the blood tissue.
It’s crucial to keep in mind that your body can adapt to being at altitude; it simply needs time to respond to acute altitude sickness on Mount Kilimanjaro.