Asthma on Kilimanjaro

 

Asthma is a common long-term inflammatory disease of the airways of the lungs. It is characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction, and bronchospasm. Symptoms include episodes of wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. These episodes may occur a few times a day or a few times per week. Depending on the person, they may become worse at night or with exercise

Asthma is characterized by recurrent episodes of wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing Sputum may be produced from the lung by coughing but is often hard to bring up.

Asthma is Incurable

Asthma is an incurable illness. However, with good treatment and management there is no reason why a person with asthma cannot live a normal and active life.

What happens during an asthma attack?

  • The muscles around your airways tighten up, narrowing the airway.
  • Less air is able to flow through the airway.
  • Inflammation of the airways increases, further narrowing the airway.
  • More mucus is produced in the airways, undermining the flow of air even more.

Asthma Attacks Vary

In some asthma attacks, the airways are blocked such that oxygen fails to enter the lungs. This also prevents oxygen from entering the blood stream and traveling to the body’s vital organs. Asthma attacks of this type can be fatal, and the patient may require urgent hospitalization.

Asthma attacks can be mild, moderate, severe and very severe. At onset, an asthma attack does allow enough air to get into the lungs, but it does not let the carbon dioxide leave the lungs at a fast enough rate. Carbon dioxide – poisonous if not expelled – can build up in the lungs during a prolonged attack, lowering the amount of oxygen getting into your bloodstream.

Best practice tips for climbing Kilimanjaro with asthma

Here are seven best practice tips for climbing Kilimanjaro with asthma:

  • Make sure that your asthma is well-under control before arriving in Kilimanjaro. We recommend seeing your doctor 3-6 months before your trip to Tanzania to review your asthma and trekking plans. Get your doctor to write a medical information letter or asthma attack card that you can carry with you on your trek and share with your tour operators and trekking partners, so that everyone knows what to do should you suffer an attack
  • Carry your inhaler and any other medication on you at all times
  • Make sure to book onto a trek that allows adequate time to acclimatise on Mount Kilimanjaro. We recommend the 8 days Lemosho route or the 7 days Machame route
  • Make sure to go slowly throughout the trek and drink loads of fluids
  • Monitor your breathing closely. It is normal to be short of breath at high altitude, but if you feel unwell, make sure to communicate this to your trekking team, use your inhaler if you must and descend if conditions get worse