Health on Kilimanjaro: Diamox

Diamox KilimanjaroIf you are interested in the technical stuff then Acetazolamide, sold under the trade name Diamox, is a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor that is used to treat altitude sickness. Now didn’t that make you feel better already?

Acetazolamide is taken prophylactically, anywhere between 125 milligrams (mg) to 500 mg per day, starting a few days before going to the higher altitude. It is particularly recommended for those ascending from sea level to 3000 meters (9800 feet) in one day, which is typical of a Kili trek. The drug forces the kidneys to excrete bicarbonate making the blood more acidic. Acidifying the blood increases the amount of oxygen in the blood and this helps acclimatisation.

Note that acetazolamide is not an immediate fix for acute mountain sickness; it speeds up part of the acclimatization process which in turn helps to prevent symptoms. If symptoms do develop, continue and deteriorate you should still GO DOWN. Side-effects

Common side effects of using Diamox include numbness and tingling in the fingers and toes. By far the worst effect is that it makes all fizzy drinks including beer to taste awful. Fortunately, if you stop taking it after summit day by the time you get to the bottom your taste buds will have recovered. You will also experience more frequent peeing if you take Diamox and with drinking all the time the combined effect can be really amazing: don’t forget a pee bottle when you pack!

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