Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro: Symptoms of Altitude Sickness

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro: Symptoms of Altitude Sickness

Part of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is training your mind to be prepared for any possibility. That means knowing that the success rate at Kilimanjaro is 60 percent. Fitness isn’t the issue for many people, though. Altitude sickness is.

From the National Health Service, here are some of the symptoms of altitude sickness you need to watch out for so that when you or someone in your group start to show the signs, you won’t have to panic: you’ll know what to do.

Mild Signs  

Altitude sickness often happens within 6 to 24 hours after reaching a high altitude. Mild symptoms include: headache, tiredness, nausea and vomiting. You can also expect signs of dizziness, increased heart rate, upset stomach and unsteadiness. Someone with Altitude sickness will have a tough time sleeping and they’ll look the worse for wear—and feel like it too. Symptoms will generally worsen at night so if you were hoping that it’s just a bad case of hangover, if you see the signs, you might have to rethink that theory and seek proper medical help.

Severe Signs

This will include the following: the person will have a cough, one that’s persistent and irritable as well as show signs of breathlessness even when the group is at rest. There’s also a bubbling sound in the chest. When you or someone in the group starts coughing up, check for a build-up of liquid. If it’s pink or white and frothy, that’s a definite sign you’re dealing with severe altitude sickness. Expect that the person will also exhibit clumsiness and will probably have a hard time walking so assistance must be provided.

Things could go worse from there, as the person suffers from double vision, convulsions, drowsiness and confusion. These symptoms mean that the person is already developing cerebral oedema or pulmonary oedema. Both are life-threatening complications of the disease and must be treated as a medical emergency.


At the first sign of altitude sickness, immediately get yourself to the lower ground. Give your body 24-48 hours to adjust. Be warned that some take as many as several days to acclimatize.

If the symptoms don’t abate, turn back and go for medical help. Don’t force yourself to finish the climb. Get proper treatment and plenty of rest. Get fit and when you’re ready, give it another go. Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro the second time around could work for you better than the first one.

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