The popularity of trekking in our country is ever increasing. As a result, a record number of people are seen flocking to the Himalayas. Normally a human body needs 24 to 48 hours to acclimatize at an altitude of 3,000 meters. Guided trekking companies find it impossible to put this in the itinerary keeping the demand for shorter duration treks for clients.
Diamox of late has become the preferred choice among trekkers. Many Trek Organizers insist their trekkers take a dose of Diamox before they come for the trek. As a trek organizer, this makes sense. If trekkers acclimatization is put on an accelerated mode, the less of a headache to manage their well-being.
Taking Diamox has become synonymous as taking a pill of aspirin. However, there recent studies have shown Diamox is not an easy pill to handle. Its side effects deter many trekkers to avoid it all together.
There must be alternatives to Diamox for dealing with Acute Mountain Sickness. We have listed five of them here.
1.Ibuprofen (also known as Advil) surprisingly is as effective as Diamox for preventing Altitude Mountain Sickness. A recent study conducted by Dr. Grant Lipman, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine states Ibuprofen can prevent 26% of cases of altitude sickness and help people who are without symptoms to stay without symptoms.
Many trekkers complain of an uncomfortable tingling of the fingers, toes and face, carbonated drinks tasting flat, excessive urination when on a Diamox prescription. Ibuprofen does not come with such side effects as Diamox and Dexamethasone, making it a more attractive, preventive drug in the market.
Ibuprofen gets absorbed by the human body much faster than Diamox making it a quick acting drug.
2. Believe it or not, chewing Coca leaves is better than having Diamox. Trekkers in latin American countries swear by the magical AMS preventive properties of Coca leaves. Alternatively having Coca leaves tea works as well but not as effective as chewing leaves. Coca has homeopathic properties. Make sure the one you get is without cocaine (decocainized). Coca 200 is a good option to begin with.
3. Drinking Beet juice can help prevent AMS on treks. Dr. Svein Erik Gaustad, an author of the study and a professor at Norwegian University of Science and Technology says about Beet juice, “It may be the extra boost your body needs to deliver enough oxygen to your tired muscles and keep you healthy when you are climbing a high mountain.”
At high altitudes, our bodies are less likely to produce enough Nitrate Oxide as it needs plenty of oxygen. That’s where beet juice comes in; it’s packed with nitrate, a compound that the body can use to convert into NO.
The study is still new, but there is no harm in having Beet juice. So next time carry a bottle of Beet juice with you on your Himalayan trek.
4. Limited evidence indicates that an herbal remedy, Gingko Biloba, may prevent altitude sickness when started before the ascent. The usual dosage is 100 mg every twelve hours.
5. Ginger and Garlic have natural properties to help when suffering from AMS. Ginger is useful in cases of indigestion and nausea. Chewing small portion of Ginger herb while trekking can be very useful.
Garlic helps in blood thinning. Make small capsules like dosage can help in countering the effect of AMS on treks. Nutrilite Garlic capsules are readily available in prescription stores.
The purist way of dealing with AMS is to avoid taking any prescription drugs before hand and monitor the health condition.
There is a simple way one can keep track over AMS symptoms by keeping a scoring tab in the following way.
Score of 1 – 2 = Mild AMS
Score of 3 – 5 = Mid AMS
Score of 6 and more = Severe AMS
Follow preventive measures once the level of AMS is ascertained. A mild AMS can be cured by taking a headache pill. Sometimes the reason for symptoms may be due to dehydration. Have one pill of Disprin along with 1-liter water. This should help in curing the migraine, fatigue. If after an hour there is no relief you would need to be treated for AMS.
Monitor the person suffering from AMS by staying in the same altitude for a day. If the symptoms improve, ascend only by 300 – 500 meter a day. This will be a good time to take Ibuprofen.
If the improvement is not seen, arrange for an immediate descent. By keeping a thorough monitoring of health condition, one can avoid conditions of deadly HAPE (high altitude pulmonary edema) and HACE (high altitude cerebral edema) to develop.