Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is a common illness that affects a significant proportion of people that ascend to high altitude. The symptoms are headache and fatigue, sleep disturbance, problems with the digestive system and dizziness.
Acclimatisation treks are the only thing that has been proven to protect against AMS on Kilimanjaro. Climbers looking for the best chance of avoiding altitude sickness can acclimatise on the conveniently located Mount Meru (4566m). This approach also gives you the best chance of success on the summit attempt of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Please note: The information is this section, as with the whole website, is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. It is your responsibility and in our interest to make sure that you seek the latest information should you be going to high altitude.
The hardest thing about altitude sickness is that it is very difficult to predict who will be affected. Fitness has little impact, in fact fitter types often struggle more as they are more complacent and gain altitude too quickly. More important than how fit you are, is how you climb the mountain…
Symptoms of mild AMS include headache, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, loss of appetite and generally feeling a bit worse for wear. It affects the majority of people above around 3,000m, so the likelihood is everybody will feel some of these symptoms on Kilimanjaro. The symptoms can be alleviated by taking ibuprofen. Mild AMS does not affect your ability to continue up Kilimanjaro, but it certainly doesn’t make it any easier.
Moderate AMS include severe headache that doesn’t go after taking painkillers, vomiting and decreased coordination. The only solution is descent of at least 300m. Trekkers can continue their ascent if symptoms have subsided after 24 hours at the lower altitude.
Severe AMS is a more severe form of moderate AMS that requires immediate descent to an altitude below 1,000m. Staff are trained in rapid evacuation procedures and a trekker can be carried to complete safety rapidly from anywhere on the mountain.
Our guides are very experienced and trained in the specialist field of altitude mountain sickness. Medical knowledge of high-altitude physiology is generally poor, so whilst the guides don’t have medical degrees, they are trusted to make sensible decisions and be decisive in implementing evacuation procedures where they judge this to be necessary. Due to the sheer number of climbs they have led, they have a vast experience of observing and distinguishing different stages of mountain sickness in addition to specialist knowledge gained in training (required of all qualified guides).
We have also patnered with Kilimanjaro SAR, which is the only helicopter-based search and rescue company on the Mountain. It offers the best and modern search and rescue services using helicopters that can fly in any weather. Kilimanjaro SAR strives to make Kilimanjaro the safest tourist destination in Africa