Mount Kilimanjaro Altitude Sickness: causes, symptoms & treatments | Great Migration Safaris

Mount Kilimanjaro Altitude Sickness: causes, symptoms & treatments

  • By Great Migration Safaris
  • December, 2019
Altitude Sickness

AMS stands for acute mountain sickness, which is a very common sickness at a high altitude on Mt. Kilimanjaro.  This sickness has some major negative impact on our bodies. If you decided to go for climbing then you ought to know about its effect, symptoms and much more information. Altitude sickness occurs above 2,500 meters but some are affected before that, according to their health condition.

So, let’s know more about mountain sickness and its prevention.

What is AMS/ altitude sickness on Mount Kilimanjaro?

Every treasured thing has pros & cons, so Mt. Kilimanjaro has its own. If you are a regular climber then you are must familiar to this term, AMS?  Basically, AMS stands for acute mountain sickness which is also known as altitude sickness. When you Climb Kilimanjaro the effect of high altitude caused a rapid exposure to a low amount of oxygen at high elevation.

Basically, people can live comfortably at moderately high altitudes, but their bodies must make some adjustments, and this process will take some time. AMS effects on high altitude caused by rapid exposure to low amounts of oxygen at high elevation.

Acute Mountain sickness occurs about 20% of people after rapidly going to 2,500 meters and 40% of people going to 3,000 meters.  If you climb high altitude above 8,000 feet, you will be in danger of developing uncomfortable systems from the change in altitude. 

What are the initial symptoms of AMS?

symptoms of AMS

Sickness on Kilimanjaro is very common and regular but there is some negative impact on our health- it can be life-threatening. But if you can identify previously then there will be less risk towards your health. When you get AMS, maybe you suddenly feel some discomfort in you, such as:

Acute mountain sickness usually causes symptoms at least 8 to 36 hours after the ascent.

  • Symptoms of acute mountain sickness can include:
  • Headache that is not relieved by over-the-counter pain medicine
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of appetite

 So these are some earlier symptoms of altitude sickness.

The general causes of altitude sickness:

Altitude sickness typically occurs above 2,500m (8,000ft), though some are affected before that altitudes. Besides this altitude sickness is more likely to occur in people who have a previous history of altitude sickness. If you climb quickly then during the first few days you will face altitude sickness.  Obesity increases the risk of altitude sickness or genetics also.

How to minimize your chances of getting the altitude sickness

a person affected by altitude sickness

Mountain sickness can cause life-threatening if you ignore its preliminary signs and avoid precautions.  So, let’s know, what steps we can take to minimize the chance of altitude sickness.

  • Climb slowly
  • Eat carbs
  • Drink water
  • Be calm
  • Sleep lower
  • Take Medication


Now there is a question that, how to minimize your chances of getting the altitude sickness?

Ascending slowly is the most effective way to avoid altitude sickness. You should avoid strenuous activities such as skiing, hiking, etc. For better safety, in between 24 hours at a high altitude you should take rest and avoid less sleep, alcohol, pills, de-hydration, and slow down the acclimatization process is strictly prohibited.

  • Pre-acclimatization, when you are in a high altitude, then your body, develops a tolerance to low oxygen concentrations before to an altitude. It reduces the risk because less time has to be spent at altitude to acclimatize traditionally.
  • Altitude acclimatization- this is a process of managing the decreasing oxygen levels at higher elevations, to avoid altitude sickness. For altitude climbers, a typical acclimatization regimen might be to stay a few days at a base camp, climb up to a higher camp (slowly), and then return to base camp.
  • Medication- There is a medicine  Diamox helps some people making a rapid ascent to sleeping altitude above 2,700 meters (9,000 ft.), and it may also be effective if started early in the course of AMS. So if you looking forward to climbing The Mt. Kilimanjaro then you firstly, know more about your health and Kilimanjaro mountain sickness.
  • Oxygen Enrichment- In high-altitude conditions, oxygen enrichment may counteract the hypoxia-related effects of altitude mountain sickness.
  • Some Additional Tips- Increased water intake and keep yourself hydrated may also help in acclimatization to replace the fluids lost through heavier breathing in the thin, dry air found at altitude, although consuming excessive quantities ("over-hydration") has no benefits and may cause many difficulties such as Hyponatremia.


If anyone gets some higher risk at their health then you need to go for medical treatments such as -

  • The only treatment, and in many cases the only option available, is to descend.  If you want to stabilize or clam the climber then use proper medication processes otherwise that will create such a difficult situation for the climber. So, the following treatments have been used when the patient's location and circumstances permit:
  • Oxygen may be used for mild to moderate acute mountain sickness below 3,700 meters (12,000 ft.) which is provided by physicians/doctors at mountain resorts.
  • For more cases of altitude sickness on Kilimanjaro, is impractical, a Gamow bag, a portable plastic hyperbaric chamber inflated with a foot pump, can be used to reduce the effective altitude by as much as 1,500 m (5,000 ft).
  • Acetazolamide 250 mg twice daily dosing assists in AMS treatment by quickening altitude acclimatization exchange”.
  • Steroids can be an effective way to treat the symptoms of pulmonary or cerebral edema, but do not treat the underlying acute mountain sickness.

Things to remember during your climb:

After everything, you just need to understand the consequences of climbing the mountain.

  • Climb during the dry season
  • Book tour by our company
  • Choose your route carefully
  • Plan your budget
  • Gather your gear
  • Bring Meds
  • Take time to acclimatize
  • Learn the mountain & nature
  • Porters rely on your tips for pay
  • Prepare for the summit day-Brutal

How to prepare for a Kilimanjaro climb

Prepare for Altitude sickness

The followings are few tips to help you prepare in a better way for a successful climb.

After observing the sickness on Kilimanjaro, you can take several primary treatments. Therefore you need, some pre-preparation such as- learn climbing, altitude training, get some knowledge about the place, and consult your doctor.

  • Set your trip of a minimum of 8 days on the mountain. Any less you have the chance to face AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) frequently.
  • Strength and endurance are so important for success.
  • Try to understand the daily elevation gains-rising procedure.
  • Build the right training program.
  • Having the wrong gear can ruin your trip- focus on your clothing, sleeping bags, tent, and basics.
  • Have your right vaccination, food, and boots.
  • Keep yourself hydrated.

Now if you read this blog then you are getting close to the exquisiteness of altitude sickness. Tanzania holds the great mountains in it and its wildlife gives priceless satisfaction to the viewers. Choosing the right way is important & If you are looking for a better and smooth experience in Tanzania, Great Migration safaris can be your answer.

Before you plan a trip consult your doctor about AMS and know more about sickness on Kilimanjaro. Pack your bag with some medicine and preventives. The heart of Africa is Mt. Kilimanjaro which holds a never-ending charm and Great Migration Safaris provides you the best service in the country.


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