Before departing a full examination with a qualified GP is recommended in order to highlight and advice on any potential problems you may encounter on your trip. This is particularly important for those with previous heart, lung or blood pressure irregularities, or any continuing medical conditions.
When taking children into the mountains you should be very careful and monitor them for unusual behaviour, as young children often have difficulty in communicating their feelings. Research suggests that younger people may be slower to adapt to high altitude, however no comprehensive studies have been carried out with regards to a safe altitude to children, so doctors recommend a maximum height for children of 3000m. Nevertheless a number of young children have climbed Kala Pattar, 5560m.
As of yet there is no evidence to suggest that teenagers are slower to adapt to high altitude than adults, although due to behavioural traits they can be more at risk than mature adults. Teenagers can be overly competitive and refuse to give in during a challenge. This may be particularly prevalent during school trips where peers are present.
Many older people, even those past retirement age have been able to climb some of the world’s most famous mountains. Age doesn’t have to be a barrier preventing older people from climbing, it is a person’s fitness level that will prevent them from taking part. Age should simply highlight the need for a good level of fitness.
As of yet no studies have been conducted into heart attacks at altitude. It follows logically due to the effects of altitude on the body and the knowledge that the level of exertion required is more significant than at sea level, but no one is sure. Talk to a doctor if you are worried.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is likely to be more of a risk at altitude, so it is important to check with a qualified doctor, preferably one who has details of your history, to see if it is safe to climb.
Increased exertion whilst climbing will change the levels of carbohydrate and insulin levels in the blood so while it shouldn’t stop climbers it is very important to monitor glucose levels and control blood sugar levels. Again, make the people around you aware of the condition and what to do in an emergency.
There is a slightly increased risk of seizures at high altitude, but depending on the severity of the condition this may mean you can continue. Your party should be aware and be prepared in the event of an emergency.
Previous Chest Infections
People who are more susceptible to chest infections are more likely to become ill, as even healthy people develop chest conditions when at altitude. It would be wise to bring any prescribed medicine, and depending on the severity, begin taking it as a preventative measure. Consult your doctor.
Many asthmatics often find that their asthma is better at altitude than normal. This is because there are fewer substances in the air which will irritate an asthma condition. Even so, it is best to keep any medication close at hand, perhaps in a sealed pocket or round your neck. Also make others in your party aware of the condition and what to do in the event of an attack.
The effects of reduced oxygen and altitude on an unborn child have yet to be studied, so for this reason it may be best not to ascend if you are pregnant. In addition, professional care is often needed and this may be impossible at altitude.