How to prevent Altitude Sickness when Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

How to prevent Altitude Sickness when Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro : When climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, acclimatization time is crucial to preventing altitude sickness, but due to the national park’s daily fees and other hiking cost, most tour companies only offer shorter itineraries which are cost-effective to match with the visitor’s budget.

The only advantage of choosing shorter itineraries is a modest price, but it can waste the time and money you put into organizing. Shorter hikes can wreak havoc on the situation, even while hikers who opt for long routes are just experiencing minor altitude sickness. Consulting your doctor about the likelihood of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) before climbing Kilimanjaro would be highly beneficial if you have any chronic illnesses.

With a height of 5895 meters, Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest freestanding mountain in the world and is referred to as the “roof of Africa.” Although Mount Kilimanjaro is a straightforward trip in terms of accessibility, altitude sickness is the main cause of failure to reach the summit.

It is more difficult for hikers because there are five different ecological zones and a variety of climates. There are eight alternative Kilimanjaro routes, each with a unique acclimatization profile, that lead to Uhuru, the summit point. This Climb Kilimanjaro Guide discusses certain information, precautions, treatments, and preventive that you should keep in mind before beginning your hike up Mount Kilimanjaro.

How to prevent Altitude Sickness when Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro
Uhuru Peak


Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), also known as Kilimanjaro Altitude Sickness, typically develops when our bodies are unable to adapt to a lower oxygen intake at high altitudes. As you ascend higher, the air pressure drops while the oxygen content stays the same. As the atmospheric pressure drops, the air becomes thinner and the oxygen molecules more widely spread.

As a result, at 3600 meters, there are roughly 40% fewer oxygen molecules inhaled per breath. Even while our bodies produce more blood cells to carry oxygen, they are unable to adjust to the lower oxygen intake level.

Anyone, regardless of age, gender, or level of physical fitness, can get altitude sickness. Altitude sickness cannot entirely be prevented because it is a natural occurrence.


More than 75% of hikers on Kilimanjaro experience mild to severe acute mountain sickness at an altitude of 3000m. Various elements that influence altitude sickness during climbing Mount Kilimanjaro are the rate of ascent, physiological vulnerability, acclimatization, and others. Here are the causes of Kilimanjaro mountain sickness:

Ascension Rate:

According to research, 58% of individuals only experienced acute mountain sickness as a result of a rapid ascent or faster rate of rise. The rate of respiration increased as one quickly rose to a higher elevation, requiring more oxygen. Kilimanjaro Altitude Sickness is a severe condition caused by consuming less oxygen as a result of thinner air.

Attained altitude:

Typically, climbers begin to experience the effects of high altitude between 2500 and 3000 meters. Acute mountain sickness develops when you reach an altitude of more than 2800m in two days. Therefore, it is preferable to take longer than 2 days to reach 2800m to reduce the risk of altitude sickness.

Duration of exposure:

By indicating the duration of exposure required to reach the summit, Kilimanjaro routes contribute significantly to altitude sickness, whether directly or indirectly. Any path typically requires 6 to 9 days to reach the top. Acclimatization takes greater time with longer exposure.

Exertion Level:

The degree of effort varies during the Mount Kilimanjaro climb, dependent on physical activities such as heart rate, breathing rate, perspiration, and muscular weariness. More oxygen is required while exerting oneself more or harder.

Diet and Hydration:

Diet and fluid intake are two other key contributors to Kilimanjaro mountain altitude disease. Due to perspiration while trekking, our body lost electrolytes, which are believed to be important for the body’s cell and muscle activities. So be sure to stay hydrated. A healthy diet rich in nutrients can aid in preventing high-altitude illnesses.

How to prevent Altitude Sickness when Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro
Hiking Mt Kilimanjaro

Calcium and vitamin D are beneficial for preventing fatigue since they improve bone density and lessen cramping when walking.

Inherent Physiological Susceptibility:

More physiological vulnerability increases the likelihood of developing altitude disease. High altitude might have an impact on your body if you have chronic conditions like high blood pressure, asthma, etc. Therefore, before embarking on a hike, talk to your doctor about the precautions to take and how to prevent any potential causes of altitude sickness.

Use of drugs or oxygen systems:

The respiratory system can suffer if oxygen is administered during mild altitude sickness, so it should only be done in an emergency. Altitude sickness can be prevented with Kilimanjaro altitude sickness medication. Follow the doctor’s advice when taking Diamox and swallow the entire dose. Use aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen to relieve pain and fever.


The most frequent issue for both novice and seasoned hikers climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is altitude sickness. Depending on how severely it has impacted a particular person, altitude sickness can take many different forms such as:


Altoxia, which resembles mild altitude sickness, is brought on when the body takes too long to adjust to the reduced oxygen content of the air at high altitudes. It can happen early in a hike or during the ascent to a summit.

The symptoms of Altoxia, which often go away in 48 hours, include headaches, dizziness, nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, and slight swelling of the face, ankles, and fingers.

Using the ALTOX Personal Oxygen System or taking Diamox helps lessen the symptoms, which call for an emergency evacuation to lower elevations. If the symptoms of Altoxia persist or worsen, it may manifest as acute mountain sickness (AMS). 

HAPE: High Altitude Pulmonary Edema

High blood pressure on the constricted blood arteries in the lung causes fluid to leak into the lung in high altitude pulmonary edema. High blood pressure, blue lips or skin, a cracking sound in the chest, and pink sputum-covered coughing are the symptoms.

Nifedipine use and immediate evacuation can alleviate the condition. It is sometimes referred to as “water in the lungs” in common parlance.

HACE: High Altitude Cerebral Edema

The cerebral blood flow in high altitude cerebral edema causes fluid to leak. The enhanced permeability of cerebral endothelium caused by cerebral endothelium speeds up cerebral blood flow. Disorientation, headache, hallucinations, lethargy, and nausea are the symptoms of “swelling of the brain,” a severe form of acute mountain sickness.

Depending on the strength and severity of the symptoms, immediate evacuation, the use of Dexamethasone or Prednisolone, and a portable hyperbaric chamber can lessen the danger. By inducing metabolic acidosis, which raises respiratory minute volume, acetazolamide can also be helpful.


  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness or lethargy.
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Breathlessness
  • Faster heartbeat
  • Feeling uncomfortable
  • Sleep disturbances or insomnia
  • There is no desire to eat or drink. 


There are numerous things you should avoid and precautions you should take to prevent Kilimanjaro altitude sickness. These includes:

  • Avoid smoking and other hazardous behaviors to avoid brain fog, poor energy levels, and bodily aches and pains.
  • Train for the Kilimanjaro altitude by climbing in Small Mountain first such as mount meru before conquering Kilimanjaro.
  • Eat quick, wholesome meals to give you lots of energy and to make climbing easier.
  • Refrain from drinking to prevent headaches and muscle soreness.
  • For headaches, take Ibuprofen or paracetamol.
  • Drink a lot of water because it helps the blood flow better, which carries oxygen molecules more effectively.


Although it is very difficult to completely prevent altitude sickness, there are some measures or suggestions you should take to reduce your risk.

Keep Drinking:

Hiking causes you to breathe more deeply and sweat, which lowers your body’s water content. Drinking water is crucial since sweating causes our body to lose electrolytes. Sodium, potassium, chloride, and bicarbonate make up the electrolytes. Your body’s cell and muscle activities benefit from electrolytes. We advise you to drink 4 to 5 liters every day because it improves blood circulation.

Eat healthy and hearty meals:

Before going on Kilimanjaro hike, you should eat a lot because altitude sickness can cause a lack of appetite. Eat orange, dark green, and red fruits and vegetables, which are great sources of vitamins A and C, to maintain your energy level.

Carbohydrates are crucial because they provide extra energy and slow digestion. For carbs, eat whole wheat pasta, whole wheat rice, brown bread, cereal, maize, barley, and oats. Lean meat, fish, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and tofu are the best options for getting enough protein, zinc, iron, and magnesium. To digest food properly, you can substitute eggs for meat.

Keep Warm:

Consider wearing layers of clothing to stay warm in cold weather at a high altitude. Layers like the insulation layer and outer layers are crucial because they keep the temperature of your core body intact by not allowing it to escape. You can survive below-freezing conditions with the right equipment, such as sleeping bags.

Keep Your Day Pack Light:

Only bring items that are really necessary, such as a camera, a power bank, a solar power bank, paper documents, toiletries, etc. Your shoulders will feel more relaxed and comfortable if you carry less.

Final Words, Not to worry! There is no need to be concerned about altitude sickness because it can be prevented by making the proper preparations and choosing routes that will improve acclimatization.

You can obtain guides from Focus East Africa Tours that have decades of experience dealing with Kilimanjaro altitude sickness. Focus East Africa Tours offers top-notch services while emphasizing customer safety while hiking as a native and renowned tour operator.

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