There are three different types of altitude sickness. The first is the most common and can often be managed without recourse to evacuation from the mountain. The other two are much more serious and tend to lead to immediate removal from the mountain.
Altoxia : During a trek on Kilimanjaro it is likely that more than 75% of trekkers will experience at least some form of mild altitude sickness caused by a failure of the body to adapt quickly enough to the reduced level of oxygen in the air at an increased altitude. This type of altitude sickness is known as Altoxia, a term which is used almost exclusively on Kilimanjaro since this is the only commonly trekked mountain where these extreme altitudes are encountered so quickly. Altoxia is most commonly experienced on the summit approach, but can also occur earlier in a trek, especially during day hikes to higher altitudes, in which case it should recede as the trek overnights at a lower altitude. Altoxia can have many different symptoms, the most common being headaches, lightheadedness, nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting and mild swelling of the face, ankles and fingers. These symptoms can be rather unpleasant, add a new dimension to the adversity faced by trekkers and can really take the shine off the experience. However, in this mild form, Altoxia does not generally have serious consequences and normally disappears within 48 hours. The symptoms of Altoxia are commonly relieved or even eliminated by use of an ALTOX Personal Oxygen System or by taking Diamox, more on these methods below. If the symptoms of Altoxia become persistent or severe, then there is a danger of acute mountain sickness developing. This is a much more severe form than Altoxia and must be treated by immediate removal to lower altitudes. There are two distinct forms of this sickness
HAPE : High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema : Translated for the layman = Water in the lungs! High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema is characterized by breathlessness at rest, very high pulse, crackling sound in the chest and coughing of pink fluid (sputum). This condition is rapidly fatal unless the casualty experiences immediate descent. There are no drugs to cure and no possibility of re-ascent following an episode.
HACE : High Altitude Cerebral Oedema : Translated for the layman = Swelling of the brain. High Altitude Cerebral Oedema is a combination of two or more of the following: Very severe headache, severe loss of balance, mental confusion and repeated vomiting. This condition is rapidly fatal unless the casualty experiences immediate descent. There are no drugs to cure and no possibility of re-ascent following an episode.
Trekkers should not be too scared by all this talk, but it is essential to understand that if you push on or stay at the same altitude with AMS, HAPE or HACE then you will probably die. People do. The only correct resolution is immediate descent. Our guides are all very experienced in dealing with the problems of altitude. It may be necessary for you to descend to a lower altitude until you recover or even to abandon the trek in the interests of safety. The decision of the guide in such situations is final.