Climbers of high peaks such as Mount Kilimanjaro are at high risk for Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). Trekkers should not ignore AMS warning signs, which can progress to more serious medical outcomes. Mountain climbers can best minimize their risk for altitude sickness by becoming acclimatized to increased altitudes before an ascent, according to a study in the current issue of High Altitude Medicine & Biology, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. (www.liebertpub.com). The article is available free online at www.liebertpub.com/ham
The study, entitled "Incidence and predictors of acute mountain sickness among trekkers on Mount Kilimanjaro," evaluated the incidence of AMS among trekkers of this popular climbing destination. Stewart Jackson, J. Kenneth Baillie, and colleagues from University of Edinburgh (Scotland) and Muhimbili University College of Health Science (Tanzania), compared the effects of three increasingly difficult and rapid ascent routes, the option of a single rest day during the climb, and use by a sub-group of climbers of prophylactic acetazolamide.
The authors reported a similar rate of AMS among climbers with or without prophylactic drug use. Furthermore, a mid-climb rest day did not affect the incidence of AMS. Only prior acclimatization to increased altitude offered a significant protective effect against AMS.
"This important article emphasizes the dangers of rapid ascent rates on a mountain that attracts thousands of visitors every year. Hopefully it will help to reduce the high frequency of high altitude diseases," says John B. West, MD, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of High Altitude Medicine & Biology and Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.