Daily Health Checks: Kilimanjaro 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. Daily routine, in the morning and evening, our guides will conduct health checks.
Pulse Oximeter: 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%. As 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%, the guides monitor that climber very closely.
Lake Louise Scoring System: Additionally, our guides will administer the Lake Louise Scoring System (LLSS) to help determine whether you have any symptoms of altitude sickness and the severity. LLSS is a set of questions designed to assess adults for symptoms of AMS. It is important that you be open, active and honest when answering these questions and with your guide overall. If you do not feel well, do not try to pretend you are fine. Do not mask your symptoms and say you feel OK. Only with accurate information can the guide best treat you.
Of course, there is always the chance that you will have to abandon your climb. In these situations, the guide will tell you to descend. It is not a suggestion or request, but an order. The guide's decision is final. Do not try to convince him with words, threats or money to continue your climb. The guide wants you to succeed on your climb, but will not jeopardize your health. Respect the decision of the guide.
Canvas Stretchers: Available on ALL treks. To carry you safely and comfortably during an emergency descend.
First-aid, Trauma and Medicine Kits: Available on ALL treks. Your guides are trained to treat minor injuries and discomforts BUT we cannot give you medicine or other drugs! Should you have an allergy the end-result can easily be more harmful than the symptom we are treating! Please bring your own small supply of pills and drugs as recommended by your doctor including Diamox. Our guides will advise you when and how to take your medication.
Mobile Phones and radio calls: Carried by all guides for daily communications with operator base in Moshi.
Gamow bag: Most Operators do not carry Gamow bags. Use of a Gamow bag on Mount Kilimanjaro is impractical because descent is the most immediate, accessible treatment.
Acclimatization Guidelines: 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. 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.
Ibuprofen can be used to relieve altitude induced headaches.
Bottled Oxygen: Bottled oxygen on all Kilimanjaro climbs as a precaution and additional safety measure is a must. The oxygen cannister is for use only in emergency situations. It is NOT used to assist clients who have not adequately acclimatized on their own to climb higher. The most immediate treatment for moderate and serious altitude sickness is descent. With Kilimanjaro's routes, it is always possible to descend, and descend quickly. Therefore, oxygen is used strictly to treat a stricken climber, when necessary, in conjunction with descent, to treat those with moderate and severe altitude sickness.
We are aware that some operators market the use of supplementary personal oxygen systems as a means to eliminate the symptoms of AMS. To administer oxygen in this manner and for this purpose is dangerous because it is a temporary treatment of altitude sickness. Upon the cessation of the use of oxygen, the client will be at an even higher altitude without proper acclimatization.
99% of the companies on Kilimanjaro do NOT offer supplementary oxygen - because it is potentially dangerous, unnecessary and against the spirit of climbing Kilimanjaro. The challenge of the mountain lies within the fact that the summit is at a high elevation, where climbers must adapt to lower oxygen levels at altitude.