• Modified on Oct 25, 2021

One of the main concerns that travelers have before booking a Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek is how they will adjust to the elevation. A lot of adventure and struggle lies behind the successful completion. While trekking, a lot of people suffer from a lot of health issues and challenges. One of the most common medical conditions is Altitude Sickness in Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek.

For trekkers who seek to reach the high altitude, or even for those trekking at relatively moderate elevations they are unknown to, altitude sickness is a real concern. Caused by a lack of oxygen at higher altitudes, altitude sickness can bring on headaches, trouble sleeping and medium to critical symptoms. Luckily, various treatments are available that can address these problems.

There is no hard and fast rule as to why people might suffer from altitude sickness. Anyone in the high altitudes is prone to it. However, young people, people residing in lower altitudes, and those who are suffering from respiratory diseases are more sensitive to altitude sickness. 

This article aims to connect the information gap by providing a comprehensive introduction to acclimatization, major sicknesses, their conditions as well as provide some essential tips to prevent Kanchenjunga Circuit Altitude Sickness.

Table of Content

What is Altitude Sickness?

Altitude Sickness is a medical emergency while trekking in the Himalayas. This might starts from the altitude range above 3,000m. The sickness occurs when the body does not adjust well to less oxygen at higher altitudes. The reason behind this is due to the less oxygen exposure in high altitudes. In some cases, the body will adjust to the surrounding, decreasing the risk of altitude sickness. Trekkers can respond to high altitudes in different ways. 

Altitude sickness symptoms may include headaches, vomiting, tiredness, confusion, trouble sleeping, and dizziness. Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) can progress to high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) with shortness of breath or high altitude cerebral edema (HACE) with confusion. Some dangerous forms of altitude sickness can lead to life-threatening issues.

Types of Altitude Sickness

Pangpema is the highest point and is also called the base camp of Mt Kanchenjunga with an elevation of 5,143m. Oxygen level and atmospheric at this height may decrease by 50% than sea level. Due to this, trekkers doing Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek have the risk of getting altitude sickness. It is very important to have a general idea about altitude sickness and its types.

The probability of getting Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek altitude sickness depends upon the trekker’s body strength to adapt to such environments. Mainly, there are three types of altitude sickness listed below:

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is the first step of altitude sickness. It is the ordinary stag among altitude sicknesses while traveling from the lower to higher elevation. Symptoms normally can be seen within 12 to 24 hours of reaching a higher elevation. As the body acclimatizes, it gets back to its usual condition within a day or two with adequate rest. Vital nutrients, rehydration of the body, and proper rest is the suitable method of treatment for AMS.

Symptoms

  • Loss of appetite, nausea, or vomiting
  • Excessive Flatulation
  • Fatigue, headache with or without dizziness or “pins and needles” sensation
  • Swelling of hands, feet, and face
  • Nose bleeding
  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent rapid pulse

High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)

High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) is the second stage and also the advanced form of altitude sickness then AMS. It is caused by excess fluid in the lungs which collect in the many air sacs in the lungs. Those fluid-filled air sacs then cause difficulty in breathing. It is a life-warning form of non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema that occurs when rising rapidly to higher altitudes. The rate of ascent, amount of physical activity at high altitude, and ignoring mild symptoms of AMS may come up with HAPE.

Symptoms

  • Shortness of breath at rest
  • Cough
  • Decreased exercise performance
  • Chest tightness
  • Crackles or wheezing while breathing
  • Blue skin color
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid heart rate

High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE)

High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) is a severe yet rare kind of altitude sickness. It generally occurs in high-altitude travelers at 6000m or above. HACE can be caused if initial symptoms of AMS and HAPE are neglected and left untreated and climb to higher altitudes. This is the stage of medical condition in which the brain swells with fluid because of the physiological effects of traveling to high altitudes. If not descend and treated in time, trekkers usually go to a coma, and then death can occur. 

Symptoms

  • Severe acute mountain sickness
  • Confusion, Loss of consciousness
  • Fever
  • Ataxia
  • Photophobia
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Altered mental state

Cause of Altitude Sickness

If your body is not ready for high altitude, then you may experience altitude sickness. As you go higher, the air becomes thinner and less oxygen is saturated. You will start to get some symptoms at elevations above 8,000 feet. Some hikers may feel initial age of altitude sickness between 8,000 to 18,000 feet. But the majority of people experience elevations above 18,000 feet.

Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek Acclimatization

Acclimatization means the way of adjusting the individual organism to a change in its environment enabling it to maintain fitness across the range of environmental conditions. This is achieved by spending some time at higher altitudes. This helps the body to change to the decrease in oxygen molecules at a certain altitude. Acclimatization is the best way to prevent Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek altitude sickness by ascending to a higher point on the trail at a slow rate.

Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek has a diverse landscape with a lower 1,270 meters to higher 5,143 meters above sea level. So the acclimatization process is very crucial and should not be skipped. As you ascend higher, there will be fewer molecules of air exerting downward pressure. This means, the spaces in between molecules of air start to increase the higher you go up. One of these molecules is oxygen, each breath of air we take will have fewer molecules of oxygen, which is what people called thin air at a higher altitude.


How to Prevent Altitude Sickness on Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek?

  • Medication

Usually, medication is not given before time unless flying or driving to a high altitude is sure. There is some evidence that taking Diamox two days before a trek and during your trip can help counter altitude sickness. But you should take a prescription from your doctor to get it.

It is also important to know that you can still get altitude sickness even when taking Diamox. Once you start having signs, the medication will not reduce them. Getting yourself to lower altitude again is the single useful treatment.

  • Sleep lower

Altitude sickness usually gets more serious at night when you are sleeping. It’s a great idea to do a higher climb during the day and then return to a lower altitude to sleep. During Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek, you may feel uneasy to sleep at a high point because you should spend overnight at a higher altitude.

  • Climb slowly

Your body needs to adapt slowly to the new environment as you go higher on the way to Kanchenjunga Base Camp. So, instead of walking fast during the trek, walk at your own pace and give time to acclimatize your body. Do not drive directly to the higher altitude while you are trekking.

When you are trekking to Kanchenjunga, plan your trip up with stop points at lower elevations before reaching your final destination. Try to trek no higher than 1000 feet each day and rest for every 3000 feet as you go higher.

  • Avoid alcohol

Alcohol, cigarettes, and medications like sleeping pills can cause altitude sickness symptoms more serious. Do not consume drinks, smoke, or sleeping pills during your trek to a higher altitude like Pangpema.

  • Drink water

Staying hydrated is also another essential part of preventing altitude sickness in the Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek. Drink water frequently during your climb because the water you consume goes through sweat.

  • Eat carbs

In general, it is not good for your body to consume more carbohydrates. But when you are at a high altitude, you need to consume additional calories. So pack plenty of healthy snacks including many whole grains.

  • Take it easy

Climb at a pace that is convenient for you. Don’t try to go too fast or engage in exercise that is too difficult.

At Last

Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek altitude sickness might be a huge challenge for the trekkers who may not have enough knowledge. The risk of altitude sickness is always present. But with proper preparation, you can always prevent the Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek altitude sickness.

Trekking is a great way to challenge yourself and drive yourself beyond limits. Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek has also got all to offer an adventurous and lifetime memorable trip. Trekking in nature is a great way to enhance your physical and mental health. It can be quite an adventurous, exciting and exciting experience if proper care is taken and one is well prepared for future difficulties.

Basanta Lamsal

Basanta Lamsal

Basanta is the author who inspires and motivates his readers with enthusiasm and dedication. He works as a travel writer and editor for The Himalayan Odyssey. He covers the various topics of Nepal with his clean and visually appealing writing — rich and descriptive —he lures his readers in. Full of travel tips, and amazing writing his articles appeared sound advice and consistent content.

He is doing a Master in Tourism and Hospitality from Tribhuvwan University which also helps him to write excellent travel content. He loves to do trekking and also has a great eye for photography.

Definitely worth following on Instagram and Facebook.