Altitude sickness is not known to only occur to certain groups of people, it can happen to anyone, fit or unfit, male or female, however, it is believed that fit people would of course, be able to acclimatize faster and have reduced risks of having altitude sickness.
Acclimatization is highly recommended for all climbers, with minimal 2 nights stay for a Mount Kinabalu climb, the first night will be spent near Kinabalu Park HQ, which is approximately 1550m above sea level, and second night at Laban Rata resthouse which is elevated at 3123.2m, however, it is still considered to be a “rapid ascent”.
Symptoms of altitude sickness range from mild headaches to severe cases, such as fluids in the lungs, that require immediate medical treatment. There is actually no cure for it, the only “remedies” to get over it are…
- Acclimatization, staying at a higher point day by day.
- Usage of stored oxygen or aid from portable air concentrators.
- Descending to lower levels.
- Resting at current altitude.
- Appetite loss
- Socially withdrawn
- Paresthesia (pins and needles like feeling in muscle groups, usually after numbs)
- some other symptoms, such as Diarrhea.
In a more serious side, altitude sickness could be deadly if not understood and handled properly, these symptoms which require immediate medical attention includes
- Brain swelling
- Loss of consciousness
- or headaches that don’t go away even if medication is taken
The thin and dry air would case your body to rapidly lose a lot of water, it is important that you hydrate yourself with plenty of water as you climb, Climbers can consider taking drugs such as Acetazolamide or Dexamethasone to aid in acclimatization, do consult your doctor if you’re interested.
As for me, the only symptom I’ve experienced was the headaches, it worsens as you sleep through it, I took some paracetamol and it helped me throughout the night at Laban Rata, the first 12hours, I lost almost my entire appetite, I only felt like drinking water, and lots of water to fill my hunger. Just hours later, I recovered and had a sudden increased appetite, I just kept eating and I didn’t feel full!
Nonetheless as you climb up Mt Kinabalu, take note of the dangers, make sure you are close to someone, and prepare some medicine for headaches, and remember to rest well! Good luck, and I hope you’ll enjoy Mount Kinabalu just like I did.