Wednesday, September 16, 2009

High Altitude Sickness

Countdown to the great trekking trip to Himalayan: 18 Days.
The EBC team has been training together at local hills every weekend since May 2009 in preparation for the trekking trip to the Base Camp of Mount Everest (EBC) on 4 October 2009. This time, instead of talking about fitness level, the 13-member team is now focusing on trekking gear, high altitude sickness and what to do while on the treks in Himalayan, Nepal.
To overcome the problem of high altitude sickness, the most popular medication is the Diamox. Diamox is a very popular brand name for Acetazolamide, just like Panadol for Paracetamol.
Here are the interesting exchange of emails from team members on high altitude sickness, the method of prevention and the medication:


Response from PK Chan

I have just checked with a Pharmacy which supplies to our company clinic. Price indication is RM 0.60 per tablet. Guess what: Viagra is also an effective remedy in case of an AMS (acute mountain sickness) attack. AMS as I first heard from one of our trekkers who went to Kalapathar last year; this was prescribed to him by his physician.
I spoke to my pharmacist who confirmed the many other uses of Viagra which is also deployed for treatment of certain cardiovascular diseases including children who suffer heart malfunction etc. The inventor has since won the Noble prize for that discovery. The question is can we afford to buy some stock: RM 40 per tablet!

Response from Yours Truly (KC)

Thanks to PK for the insights. High altitude sickness is partly caused by insufficient flow of blood to our head (my understanding). But then the Viagra would pump the blood to other parts of our body, thereby depleting the much needed blood to the head. We may have a situation where a trekker could not walk due to two problems instead of the original problem. While the head is unmotivated to move, the lower part is highly excited (and cause movement even difficult) ... :-)
40 tablets of Diamox = RM 24 whereas one tablet of Viagra is RM 40; we need to cut the Viagra pill into 80 pieces to have the same equivalent.

Response from SC Yong

I think it is a good idea to take along some Diamox as nobody knows what will actually happen once we hit the highlands. Another side effect of taking Diamox from my two friends (who went with me to Tibet) is numbness of the hands for a number of hours. Nevertheless, everyone who takes Diamox feels better after an initial attack of AMS.

Yours truly (KC) and PK Chan

Trial Course of Diamox
(Extracted from Internet)

Since Diamox is a sulfonamide drug, people who are allergic to sulfa drugs should not take Diamox. Diamox has also been known to cause severe allergic reactions to people with no previous history of Diamox or sulfa allergies. Frank Hubbell of SOLO recommends a trial course of the drug before going to a remote location where a severe allergic reaction could prove difficult to treat.
Fiona, Pei Ling, Huei Ling, Alexis

Response from Alexis:

Hmmm… I don’t know what views to give as I am an inexperience trekker in high mountains. Anyway, I don’t mind trying in Kuala Lumpur first – of course, I mean the Diamox.
Response from Jayne:
I tried one tablet during Sikkim trekking at above 4,000m last year. No feeling then because I was frozen to numbness. So I didn't continue with that and was OK later without encountering AMS. I can try two tablets in Kuala Lumpur while my sense of feel is still normal, and don't mind hallucinating at home.

Response from Yours Truly (KC)

Hallucination... we sound like the hippies in the early 70's taking drug and hallucination. Maybe the effect would give us better inspiration in thinking for new ideas. So on Sunday 13 September while training at Batu Caves, I packed two tablets in each small plastic bag and distributed to the team members. One member said if one mixs Diamox with Viagra, the effect would be fantastic and unimaginable. With the numbness from Diamox, one can just go on, and on, and on ....
L-R: Fiona, Jayne Aw, Amanda, Sharon, Kelly

Response from Fiona

I just spoke to a friend who specializes in Internal Medicine. He cautions me about Diamox. His advice was to avoid taking it if possible. He warns some human bodies may react too quickly and cause a plunge in blood pressure or something...

I am now going to drown myself with 2 Ginkgo tablets (food supplement type) everyday as prevention measures.

Test report from Sharon Tan

Don't try Diamox unless it's necessary! I took only one tablet last Sunday afternoon (13 Sept) and the effect lasted until Monday afternoon (about 24 hours). My fingers went numb with pricking sensation (maybe others parts of my body also went dumb). My heart beat faster than normal; I became very weak and sleepy. How to trek if taking Diamox in EBC?

Posted by KC



Mich said...

try ginger tablet

KC & the Sunshine Runners said...

Hi Mich,
thanks for the tips... :-) Will get it.