Hazards of High Altitude Mountaineering
Your guide on Kilimanjaro will not only have basic first aid training but also
he has many years of experience guiding walkers on Kilimanjaro. If you are at
any stage concerned about anybodies health or any aspect of the trip please
consult him in the first instance. All Kilimanjaro guides will do their utmost
to get you to the summit safely.They will not advise you to turn back unless they have an excellent reason.
Please heed their advice.
In the event of any problem or accident guides have contact with base and can
summon a ranger rescue team, these can reach most points on the mountain in
just a few hours. Your park entry fees include a mountain rescue fee that
covers for all expenses other than air rescue.
Apart from this please make your self aware of the medical problems associated
with high altitude mountaineering.
You should carry your own first aid kit and be familiar with its use. Problems
peculiar to the tropics and high altitudes need special attention.
Altitude Sickness: Problems result from the inability of the human body to adjust to a rapid gain
in altitude and range from mild cases of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS),
experienced to some extent by most climbers, to the often fatal Pulmonary and
Cerebral Oedemas, the latter being far less common. A slow pace and copious
fluid intake (unless oedema is suspected) reduce the severity of Altitude
Sickness. Dehydration, even mild, leads to thickening of the blood with
increased possibility of pulmonary embolism or a thrombosis. Urine colour
should be pale and the output copious. (Oedemas are the accumulation of liquid
in a part of the body).
Pneumonia: This can kill, in some cases very rapidly. Symptoms include rise in
temperature, pain in chest, shivering, rapid breath and dry cough sometimes
with red mucus. Cure involves keeping the patient warm, getting him to lower
altitudes, providing warm drinks and antibiotics, and by beating chest to
Improvised rescue of oedema victim in the Rwenzori
Symptoms of AMS include loss of appetite, headache, nausea, vomiting,
exhaustion, lassitude, weakness, a rapid pulse even at rest, insomnia, swelling
of hands and/or face and reduced urine output. Climbers with severe symptoms
must stop ascending and seriously consider descending to a lower altitude,
since often a drop of as little as 500m. and a stay of a couple of days at that
level will allow recovery. The drug DIAMOX can sometimes help or prevent or
reduce the severity of AMS. With Pulmonary Oedema, additional symptoms may be
noticed - shortness of breath, even at rest, gurgling, bubbly sounds in the
chest and sometimes watery blood-tinged sputum. Skin may be cold and clammy,
lips and finger nails bluish. With Cerebral Oedema, severe headache,
hallucination and lack of co-ordination are additional symptoms. Treatment:
Sun: At an altitude of 4,000m, only about 60% of the harmful UV sunlight is
filtered out by the atmosphere. This can result in very rapid burning of
exposed skin; lips are particularly badly affected. Good suncreams are
recommended. Dark glasses with side panels should be worn when crossing snow to
prevent snow blindness, even in misty conditions. Snow blindness is painful and
feels like sand in the eyes; rest and eye drops help; great care is required to
avoid rubbing eyes (bandaging?).
Hygiene: Do not pollute streams by washing yourself or catering-utensils in them. These
are water supplies for you and other people. If there is no latrine dig a
private hole for your excrement as far as possible from camps or paths, using
an ice axe or stick, then refill it neatly. Do not leave rubbish lying around.
Some, such as food and paper can be buried in well-vegetated zones, but tins,
bottles, metal foil and plastics must be carried out.
Basic First Aid Kit: Aspirin or Paracetamol for headaches and fevers. Throat lozenges for dry
throats. Lip salve. Crepe bandages, tape and gauze. Eye drops, e.g. Optrex.
Soap for washing wounds. Mild disinfectant wash. Anti-Diarrhoea medicine, e.g.
Imodium. A laxative. Diamox for mountain sickness; a side effect of this drug
is a tingling sensation in the extremities. Stronger pain killer, e.g. Fortral
or Sosogen. Antibiotics for pneumonia or other major infections. Water
Information and recommendations contained in this section should be regarded as
a guide only. More detailed information can be obtained from specialised
publications such as 'Medicine for Mountaineering' (The Mountaineers, Seattle,
Note: The hotel has available for hire a Hyperbaric Bag bag (usd100 per group per trip) and two Oxygen Cylinders (usd35). Usuallyy these are only used for bigger groups camping in the Crater
where some of the group members may have no previous high altitude experience. Book Now