African Safari Tours: Health tips for Hiking Kilimanjaro

October 17, 2014 at 7:04 pm Leave a comment

Kilimanjaro, though not technically demanding like Everest, is a mountain that will challenge you both mentally and physically. It is important that you are prepared for this adventure.

How to Prepare

One of the best ways to prepare for Kilimanjaro trek is to do regular hikes, increasing in frequency and length as you get closer to the climb. Any aerobic activity such as biking, jogging and swimming, will build cardiovascular strength and help prepare you for the strains and pains of the mountain.

It is also highly recommended to get a medical clearance from your physician before attempting Kilimanjaro. If you are over 50 years of age it is recommended to get a stress EKG. Additionally, it is important to talk to your doctor about the following vaccines:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Typhoid
  • Yellow Fever
  • Tetanus
  • Polio
  • MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella)

What to Bring

Having a personal first aid kit is important and highly recommended. Medical supplies in Tanzania are not always guaranteed. Consider the following first aid materials:

  • Painkillers (aspirin/paracetamol)
  • Antihistamines
  • Blister treatment
  • Imodium or other antidiarrheal tablets
  • Plaster/Band aids
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Dressings
  • Talcum powder
  • Malaria tablets
  • Sunblock for skin and lips
  • Antacids
  • Cold cure sachets
  • Oral rehydration salts/sachets
  • Insect repellent
  • Sanitary napkins/pads

It is important that you bring with you any prescription medications you are currently taking. You must also be prepared that if you require any medication you must be able to provide and administer it on your own. For those who wear contact lens, it is important that lenses be removed at night so that the eye may absorb needed oxygen which prevents corneal edema.

Altitude Sickness

Each individual’s body responds differently to high altitudes. Your response depends on your rate of ascent, the magnitude of ascent, and your own genetic susceptibilities. With Kilimanjaro Uhuru Peak reaching 5,895 meters (19,340 feet) it is very likely that all climbers will experience some form of mild altitude sickness on their climb. This is caused by the body’s failure to adapt quickly to the reduced levels of oxygen in the air at the higher altitudes. If not watched and taken care of mild symptoms can become severe.

About 75% of people are affected with mild symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) at altitudes over 10,000 ft. Some may experience it at lower altitudes as well. The symptoms of AMS include:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Indigestion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Tinging in toes

Mild AMS will not interfere with daily activity and generally subside after 2-4 days acclimatization. If symptoms are mild then ascent can be continued at a moderate rate.

AMS can progress to High altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) or High altitude cerebral edema (HACE) both of which are potentially fatal. HAPE results from fluid buildup in the lungs and restricts oxygen exchange between the lungs and the bloodstream. Symptoms include:

  • Irritating cough (can produce frothy, often blood-tinged sputum)
  • Mental confusion
  • Quick shallow breathing, difficulty breathing
  • Exhaustion
  • Chest pain
  • Gurgling noise in chest
  • Debilitating headache and severe fatigue
  • Disruption of vision, bladder, and bowel functions
  • Loss of coordination of trunk muscles

Considered the most serious altitude related disease, HACE is caused by fluid leakage in the brain which causes swelling and debilitates the central nervous system. The symptoms of HACE are similar to those of AMS and HAPE. It is crucial that if you are experiencing these symptoms that you descend immediately.

This information is not intended to deter climbers from tackling Kilimanjaro. Remember: the more you know, the safer you are. Keep all this information in mind when thinking about hiking majestic Kilimanjaro and any African safari tours adventure.

Click here to learn more about Tanzania tours and Kilimanjaro safaris.

Entry filed under: African Safari, Blogroll, Climbing Kilimanjaro. Tags: , , , .

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