A Guide to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)

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While talking about the health conditions related to hiking, trekking, or mountaineering, Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) or Altitude Sickness proves to be the most serious one! It is in fact, the most feared health condition among the climbers! Let's have a look at what it is and how to treat AMS in the best possible ways!

What is Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) or Altitude Sickness?

  • Oxygen level starts decreasing with the rise in altitude. However, beyond a height of 8,000ft or around 2,400m, the available oxygen limit is not enough for our body. And with this depletion, our body starts falling short of air supply.
  • As a result of oxygen shortage, we get prone to several side-effects; minor or major. In medical science, this phenomenon is referred to as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) or Altitude Sickness.

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What Are the Symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)?

Here are some of the basic symptoms to know if you are already affected by AMS:

Random Headache

Feeling Dizziness

Pains and Crumbles in the Muscles

Nausea or the Tendency to Vomit

Feeling Irritated

Loss of Appetite or Disorderly Appetite

Swelling of Body Parts; Hands, Feet, and Face

Increase in Heartbeat

Running Out of Breath or Forceful Breathing

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  • Overlooking or ignoring the above-mentioned effects might result in more severe symptoms mentioned below:

Inability to Make Decision

Irregular, but a severe cough accompanied by Blood

Chronic Chest Pain followed by Chest Congestion

Discolouration of Skin; Mostly Becoming Pale in Appearance

Inability to Maintain Balance of Body or Inability to Walk

Feeling Exhausted and Losing Consciousness or Withdrawing Self from Social Interaction

  • NOTE: Ignoring these effects can result in ataxia or losing the overall control of the body.

  • Do the Chances of Getting Prone to AMS Increase with Altitude?

You might not face any threat to AMS till your reach 8,000ft. Post this height, there are a high amount of chances that things will turn scary and extremely crucial for you! Refer to the table mentioned below to know about the chances of getting prone to AMS with the increase in altitude.

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Chances of AMS

Between 8,000ft to 12,000ft


Between 12,000ft to 18,000ft


Above 18,000ft


How to Treat Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)?

Things to do to treat AMS or overcome its effects:

  1. Get Acclimatised.
  2. Maintain Body Temperature.
  3. Eat Regularly.
  4. Keep Yourself Hydrated.
  5. Hike Gradually.
  6. Do Not Over-Sleep.
  7. Take Medications.
  8. Consult a Physician.
  9. Be Open to The Group Leaders.
  10. Get Oxygen Cylinders.
  11. Avoid Alcohols and Other Intoxicants.
  12. Stay Calm and Relaxed.
  13. Get Down Immediately.

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AMS in A Glimpse:


Chances of AMS

AMS Symptoms

What to Do?

Between 8,000ft to 12,000ft


Breathing Problem, Nausea, Sleeping Disorder, Fatigue, Anxiety

Take Basic Medication Only After Consulting with The Group Leader

Between 12,000ft to 18,000ft


Losing Body Control (Ataxia), Severe or a continuous headache 

Consult with The Group’s Medical Instructor, Follow Advanced Medication, Start Descending By 900-2,000ft

Beyond 18,000ft


Losing Body Control (Ataxia), Chronic Headache; All Together

Do Not Waste Time and Descend By At Least 2,000-4,000ft

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