Acclimatization: Things to know while traveling to Himalaya

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While going high mountain regions like Himalaya of Nepal, you must know some medical terms like altitude sickness and frostbite. Here, we are talking about acclimatization, which prevent for altitude sickness and makes you healthy and stronger while getting up in mountainous region. And for the frostbite you must careful while choosing your clothes and personal gears. 

It is the process by which individuals gradually adjust to high altitude in mountain region. It is a physiological process involving a series of adjustments that occur over a period of hours to months. These changes all favor increased oxygen delivery to cells and efficiency of oxygen use. In contrast, the term “altitude adaptation” describes physiological changes that occur over decades and generations that confer advantages for life at high altitude. 

Importance of Acclimatization

The most important component of acclimatization is an increase in depth of respiration. This begins to occur at altitudes of about 1500 m or above. With increased ventilation comes hypomania and respiratory alkalosis, which limits further, increased ventilation. As acclimatization proceeds, there is gradual rental compensation by excretion of bicarbonate that tends to restore arterial pH to near normal values.

Heart rate increases with ascent, although, with acclimatization, resting heart rate approaches sea level values (except at extreme altitude). At extreme altitude like in Himalayas, resting and maximum heart rates converge as the limits of acclimatization are approached. Erythropoietin secretion in response to hypoxemia stimulates the hemoglobin concentrations. This response is not necessarily beneficial, as excessive polycythemia may impair oxygen transport through increased blood viscosity. 

There is considerable individual variation in the ability to acclimatize to altitude. Those who live in high altitude like Sherpa people are more capable to adjust their body in high altitude. In the context of Nepal, some of the human settlement is situated at height of 400m to 4500m. This is what makes; their body is acclimatized since their childhood. 
Some people acclimatize rapidly, while others develop acute mountain sickness and require longer periods of time to fully acclimatize.

Very few people are incapable of it; virtually everyone is able to do so given sufficient time. For the better performance in high mountains, individual should take high altitude gradually that means without any rush. If a person travels in high mountains from 1500m to 5500m with spending 4-5 nights, it may good enough. It is better to ascent around 400m to 500m each day while getting up in mountainous region. 


The tendency to acclimatize rapidly or slowly is consistent on repeated altitude exposures. If someone is a ‘slow acclimatizer’ on one journey, the same pattern should be expected to occur on subsequent journeys to similar elevations. Attempts to prepare for ascent by breathing hypoxic gas mixtures at sea level are not practical and are flawed by breathing hypoxic gas mixture at sea level are not practical and are flawed by rapid loss of acclimatization; although some trails have suggested that periods spent in a hypobaric chamber prior to rapid ascent to high altitude may assist acclimatization. 

Successful acclimatization is characterized by the absence of altitude illness and improved sleep. It is relatively short-lived following descent to low altitude, with effects lasting up to about two weeks. 

In adults seems possible up to about 5000m-5500m. Above this elevation there is a fine balance between adjustment to altitude and deterioration as a result of chronic hypoxia. At more extreme altitude, deterioration becomes increasingly prominent and above 8000m,no acclimatization occurs and prolonged exposure is incompatible with survival. 
And also medically it is suggested that drinking more water helps to prevent from altitude sickness. Drinking enough water is always a better way to be strong and healthy so do continue this in mountain region, but use only warm and clean water. 

Read More: Wikipedia-Acclimatization

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