Altitude Sickness During Annapurna Circuit Trek

Annapurna Circuit Altitude Sickness

Annapurna Circuit Trek always remains to be a glory of Nepal and hiking here is simply a joy. The place is full of natural wonder so anyone traveling here will be rewarded with a spectacular scenery.

The classic trail of Annapurna Circuit unrolls splendid scenery along with the view of exotic wildlife and sky-high mountains. Not to mention but the landscapes along the way to Annapurna Circuit are equally amazing and diverse from each other.

There are so many good aspects of the trek and only downside, altitude sickness which no one would be much fascinated to hear. There’s no denying the fact that trekkers of Annapurna Circuit are more prone to altitude sickness than most trekking spots.

Most of these travelers begin showing signs of altitude sickness as they reach high altitude. In the meantime, there are few who are gradually hit by the changing climatic condition and weather starting from lower altitude.

As for Annapurna Circuit Trek, the highest point Thorong La Pass lies at an elevation of 5416m which is quite a lot. But that’s not the only place where mountaineers are at the risk of altitude sickness.

It’s also not necessarily that travelers have to be above 5000 meters to suffer from acute mountain sickness. Some hikers at Annapurna Circuit Trek begin to show signs of altitude sickness starting from Manang and even lower than that.

The most common and mild symptoms used to diagnose the altitude sickness during the trek is headache. Many people ignore this form of acute mountain sickness thinking it too common and that’s when things get unpleasant.

It’s only fine until the headache goes away after taking medicines or rest. But if it keeps coming again and again then you should immediately climb down to prevent the sickness.

Other ways to avert Annapurna Circuit altitude sickness is to stay hydrated, take notice of the change in body after reaching high altitude.

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Causes of Altitude Sickness

Annapurna Circuit Trek

Clearly there is no one particular reason for altitude sickness as sometimes the sickness can arouse due to the low oxygen in the air. Turns out that it also happens after your body refuses to adapt with the temperature placed at these altitudes. Some of the causes of Annapurna Circuit altitude sickness are as follows.

1. High Altitude

Not always but high altitude is a major cause behind the acute mountain sickness on Annapurna Circuit Trek for most of the time. It occurs when you ascend to the utmost height too quickly and stay there for too long without taking rest.

With no contradiction, altitude sickness can happen from as low as 1500-2500 meters height along with the side effect of climate. But in most cases, people suffer from altitude sickness shortly after they are exposed to extreme altitudes.

That means when you reach at or greater than 5500 meters height, there’s more chances for you to have a severe effect of altitude sickness. The rule is simple here and it’s that the more you gather speed at higher altitude, the more you are likely to get affected.

And in case of Annapurna Circuit Trek, you have to reach up to 5416m which is a lot to ask. To add more stress, you’ll have to walk for as many as two weeks which weakens the physical strength. This comes on strong with the absence of oxygen in the air at high altitude.

2. Change in Weather

Weather Change is another reason for altitude sickness during Annapurna Circuit Trek. To put it in a simple way, unforeseeable weather at high altitude in Annapurna Circuit can severely affect your health.

You can be enjoying mild weather a few hours ago and at the very next moment, it can get bitterly cold. In such a situation, your body could find it difficult in adapting with the weather and climate of the place.

Just in case, it refuses to adjust with the weather, you’re likely to put up with the symptoms of altitude sickness which can get worse in absence of proper medications.

3. Oxygen amount at high Elevation

It’s a fact that the presence of oxygen at higher altitude is seemingly low and that it causes problems in breathing. This is perhaps the reason for why many trekkers at Annapurna Circuit develop altitude sickness since they have to make it up to Thorong La Pass.

You might not know but Thorong La is the highest point for Annapurna Circuit Trek and it lies at an elevation of 5416 meters. Hence, it’s not surprising why so many hikers on the trek struggle from shortness of breath as more and more they ascend higher altitude.

Symptoms of Altitude Sickness

annapurna circuit with tilicho lake

The symptoms of altitude sickness might not be the same to every person all the time. It differs based on the age and how your body reacts to the altitude and climate of the places.

As for Annapurna Circuit trek, trekkers show the symptoms as common as nausea and loss of appetite to the greatest possible like swollen hands and insomnia. The prime symptom is headache though and it’s often used to diagnose altitude sickness.

If only your sign of altitude sickness is headache, you can treat it by taking pain relief medicine. If the headache continues to trouble you even after that then there won’t be a need for a test to identify altitude sickness.

Trekkers start to show signs of altitude sickness in about six to ten hours after ascending the height. In normal conditions, it takes 1 to 2 days for the manifest of altitude sickness to fade away.

But if the sickness becomes persistent then you must seek medical help. Just in case you ignored it, the situation can get worse and even become a medical emergency.

Starting from the most common to extreme symptoms of altitude sickness evident on Annapurna Circuit Trek are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • High altitude flatus expulsion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Dry cough and fever
  • Continuous rapid pulse
  • Headache without and with drowsiness

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How to prevent Altitude Sickness?

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Acute mountain sickness is pretty much evident during long-distance treks. And in Annapurna Circuit altitude sickness is even more apparent as one has to constantly ascend high altitude and that too for a long time. This makes it tough for a human body to adapt to the changing temperature and low oxygen in a short little time. So here are few preventive measures which can help trekkers of Annapurna Circuit Trek avoid altitude sickness.

1. Altitude Acclimatization

Altitude Acclimatization is the one and only way to avoid all the possibilities of altitude sickness. It primarily helps trekkers to prevent the sickness entirely without having them to seek medical help.

Since there is a lack of oxygen in the air people often develop shortness of breath at high altitude. Difference in temperature is another reason which restricts your body to adapt with the change in environment.

And that’s why altitude acclimatization is important as it helps you adjust with the temperature and climate. As for Annapurna Circuit Trek, there is at least a day scheduled for altitude acclimatization.

2. Drink minimum of 5 Liters of water per day

How hard it is to understand that your body needs maximum water while hiking long distance. It becomes even more important when you’re on a trek like Annapurna Circuit whose last point is Thorong La Pass and that it lies at an elevation of 5416m.

This makes sense for hikers to drink at least 5 litres of water every day while in Annapurna Circuit Trek. It might be relatively easy at lower elevations when the climate is hot. But as soon as the temperature drops, you’ll sweat less and this might cause your body to lose the fluids.

You can then drink water to stay hydrated but there might still be breathing problems. So no matter how lower or higher altitude it is, just make sure to drink a minimum 5 litres of water per day.

3. Eat, eat and more eat

It’s an Annapurna Circuit Trek so for obvious your body will be more active than normal. Hence, it’s important for hikers to have sufficient energy providing food full of carbohydrates.

You have the option to carry enough of chocolate bars before starting the trek. Unless you miss it, there are plenty of markets on the way to Annapurna Circuit where you can get nutritious candy bars. This will more or less help you fight the Annapurna Circuit altitude sickness.

4. Avoid substantial gains in higher elevation

It is too important that you pay attention to what your body asks for. With the gradual changes in altitude, your body could be struggling to adapt with the environment. So every time you climb high altitude or descend, make sure to have proper rest.

It’s even better if you escape dramatic gains and try not to achieve more of it in a single day. If you start developing the signs of acute mountain sickness time and again, just stop ascending immediately and take medicines.

Also make sure that you don’t continue trekking until all your symptoms disappear and you regain your physical strength.

5. Medications for altitude sickness

The best remedy for altitude sickness is to stop climbing high altitude and rather descent. But medicines can be a remedial treatment for the symptoms of altitude sickness. The wise decision would be to consult with a medical personnel and take note of his advice.

Most trekkers on Annapurna Circuit Trek use Ibuprofen and Diamox as a treatment for the mild symptoms of altitude sickness like nausea and headache.


Ashish Niraula

Ashish Niraula is a seasoned trekker and professional tour consultant based in the country of the Himalayas. He has over seven years of hands-on experience in the sector, which has helped fortify his knowledge and expertise to craft the most iconic and memorable adventure packages in the Himalayas. Ashish’s passion for traveling and the unwavering drive that always pushes him toward excellency, have helped him earn a reputation as a trustworthy advisor in the tourism sector.

As a traveling enthusiast, Ashish has explored all the major trekking routes of Nepal. With years of experience exploring the mystical Himalayas and professional engagement in the field, Ashish honed his skills to design the most iconic adventure experiences in the Himalayas that cater to the adventure palate of every traveler. From organizing the challenging treks to the rugged Himalayas with incredible thrills to facilitating culturally immersive experiences across the traditional settlements in the country, Ashish’s commitment to excellence shines through every aspect of his work.