Daily Health Checks
Our guides are all experienced in identifying altitude sickness and dealing with the problems it causes with climbers. They will constantly monitor your well-being on the climb by watching you and speaking with you. Twice daily, in the morning and evening, our guides will conduct health checks.
A pulse oximeter measures oxygen saturation – tthe oxygen level in your blood – and your pulse rate. The oximeter is placed on a climber’s fingertip. The oximeter uses two beams of light that shine into small blood vessels and capillaries in your finger. The sensor reflects the amount of oxygen in the blood.
Oxygen saturation is a measurement of how much oxygen your blood is carrying as a percentage of the maximum it could carry. Normal blood oxygen levels at sea level are 95-100%.
s altitude increases, oxygen saturations decrease. Proper acclimatization generally brings oxygen saturations higher, which is why these figures typically rise when oxygen saturations are tested after resting overnight. On Kilimanjaro, oxygen saturations percentages are regularly in the 80’s. There are no definitive saturation levels where a client can be declared absolutely safe or at risk. However, when oxygen saturation drops below 80%, we monitor that climber very closely
Kilimanjaro Search and Rescue
We are partnered with Kilimanjaro Search and Rescue (SAR), a helicopter rescue operation which conducts modern, efficient rescue services on Kilimanjaro. Airbus AS 350 B3 helicopters waits nearby at Moshi Airport. Once a distress call is received, rescue procedures are activated within five minutes. Expert pilots, highly trained rescue doctors and emergency flight technicians are exceptionally qualified and prepared for all emergencies on the mountain.
Kilimanjaro SAR manages a medical clinic that focuses on high altitude related illnesses, mountain medicine, and trauma. It is staffed 24 hours a day by physicians, nurses and assistants offering the best possible treatment. This group is advised by a unique Clinical Advisory Team made up of top level medical and high altitude professionals.
The following are recommended to achieving acclimatization:
- Pre-acclimatize prior to your trip by using a high altitude training system.
- Ascend Slowly. Your guides will tell you, “Pole, pole” (slowly, slowly) throughout your climb. Because it takes time to acclimatize, your ascension should be slow. Taking rest days will help. Taking a day increases your chances of getting to the top by up to 30% and increases your chances of actually getting some enjoyment out of the experience by much more than that.
- Do not overexert yourself. Mild exercise may help altitude acclimatization, but strenuous activity may promote HAPE.
- Take slow deliberate deep breaths.
- Climb high, sleep low. Climb to a higher altitude during the day, then sleep at a lower altitude at night. Most routes comply with this principle and additional acclimatization hikes can be incorporated into your itinerary.
- Eat enough food and drink enough water while on your climb. It is recommended that you drink from four to five liters of fluid per day. Also, eat a high calorie diet while at altitude, even if your appetite is diminished.
- Use FDA approved drug Diamox for prevention and treatment of AMS.
- Avoid tobacco, alcohol and other depressant drugs including, barbiturates, tranquillizers, sleeping pills and opiates. These further decrease the respiratory drive during sleep resulting in a worsening of altitude sickness.
- If you begin to show symptoms of moderate altitude sickness, don’t go higher until symptoms decrease. If symptoms increase, descend.
Diamox (generic name acetazolamide) is an F.D.A. approved drug for the prevention and treatment of AMS. The medication acidifies the blood, which causes an increase in respiration, thus accelerating acclimatization.
Diamox does not disguise symptoms of altitude sickness, it prevents it. Studies have shown that Diamox at a dose of 250 mg every eight to twelve hours before and during rapid ascent to altitude results in fewer and/or less severe symptoms of acute mountain sickness (AMS).
The medicine should be continued until you are below the altitude where symptoms became bothersome. Side effects of acetazolamide include tingling or numbness in the fingers, toes and face, taste alterations, excessive urination; and rarely, blurring of vision. These go away when the medicine is stopped. It is a personal choice of the climber whether or not to take Diamox as a preventative measure against AMS