Acute Mountain Sickness Syndrome


Mountain climbing has leaped into the most liked adventure list among Kenyans. I used to think all that one required to endure the mountainous terrain was physical fitness and the ones who were not fit could be airlifted to the mountain top. Little did I know that this process could be catastrophic. According to Dr. Tim Kenny, there are risks associated with climbing to altitude. Acute mountain sickness (AMS) can be unpleasant and may reduce enjoyment of activities. In addition, if it is not managed appropriately it can result in more serious illness which can lead to death.

As you climb or travel (ascend) to altitude, the air becomes thinner. Due to the lower pressure of the air, there is less oxygen available per breath. This lack of oxygen triggers changes in your body to help it adapt to its new environment. These normal changes are known as “acclimatization”.  This means that your body is adapting to conditions. Changes include breathing faster than usual, getting more short of breath with increased activity (exertion) and passing urine more frequently.

MtKenyaThe best way to try to prevent altitude sickness is to climb up (ascend) to higher altitudes slowly. This gives time for your body to adapt to conditions (acclimatize). Different people will acclimatize at different rates. Therefore airlifting somebody to the mountain top can cause instant death because that person’s body would not have gotten enough time to acclimatize to the new environment that has less oxygen and low pressure. It will be like taking a hot tin direct from the fire and pouring cold water on it. It will crumble instantly.

This concept can also be superimposed in our daily life’s experiences. For one to be successful in life, he has to go through a gradual process that will assist him develop muscles to handle success. But if he’s successful without undergoing the process, he’ll develop the acute mountain sickness syndrome. For example, if a hustler wins a lottery worth 10 million shillings, the probability of that money going down the drain within a short span is high. But if that money is given to a CEO who took time to climb up the corporate ladder, it is a guarantee that the money will be invested wisely.

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Most youths of my generation have a proclivity towards instant success. Their most ideal process is to graduate today, get a job tomorrow, become a wealthy the day after tomorrow and then marry immediately. They do this by drawing parallels with people who have already made it. What they do not know is that these people took more than enough time to reach at the peak of their lives. They want to achieve within months what can be achieved in years. This is a recipe for Acute Mountain Sickness.

When a caterpillar is in its cocoon and metamorphoses into a butterfly, it has to struggle and break the cocoon on its own. But if it is helped out of the cocoon, it will never fly. Nowadays I witness so many parents spoon feeding their kids especially boys by doing virtually everything for them. The parent will feed the boy, clothe him and pay school fees for his education. When the boy eventually graduates, the parent will then shoulder the responsibility of job seeking for him. Will this boy have the spine to withstand storms in life?

The distance from Egypt to the Promised Land was short. But God allowed the Israelites to wonder in the desert for 40 years so that they could mature spiritually and appreciate His intervention. If they would have used a shorter route, they would have run back to Egypt in case of a minor setback.   So to avoid AMS, let us not relent in our endeavors no matter how long we take.



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