Prepare to climb Kilimanjaro, Mount Kilimanjaro altitude sickness

Mount Kilimanjaro altitude sickness

Mount Kilimanjaro Altitude Sickness is the major health concern when hiking up the mountain. About 70% of all hikers hiking up the mountain will get altitude sickness. Altitude sickness happens at high places like the mountain’s summit. The best treatment against altitude sickness is to go down to a lower altitude right away. By just going down 500 meters will help. Symptoms include headaches, nausea, loss of appetite, tiredness, fast heartbeat, trouble sleeping, swollen hands and feet, and less urine.

Hikers can take precautions to at least minimise the severity of the illness, by:

  • hike at a slow pace from day one to increase the time your body has to adjust to the altitude
  • add an extra day to increase the time your body has to adjust to the high altitude,
  • keep your body hydrated by drinking at least 3 to 4 litres of water every day.
  • Taking medicine such as Diamox is possible, but you should check with your doctor for advice.

Severe Mount Kilimanjaro altitude sickness can present itself in 2 ways. The first one, more common, is called HAPE. This happens when fluid builds up in the lungs, making it hard to get enough oxygen. The second one is called HACE, and it’s not as common. This affects the brain and causes swelling of the brain tissue. This can be dangerous if not treated right away or if the signs are overlooked. About 70% of hikers going up the mountain will feel some level of altitude sickness. It’s important to familiarize yourself with it and know the steps to prevent it.

Diamox for Mount Kilimanjaro altitude sickness

Diamox is the most common drug used for preventing and treating mount Kilimanjaro altitude sickness. Unlike dexamethasone, this drug doesn’t just cover up the symptoms. It seems to work by making the blood more acidic. This acidity helps you breath deeper and faster, helping you take in more oxygen. The increase oxygen, help you adjust faster to the higher altitudes.


Hypothermia or exposure is the lowering of the body’s core temperature. Once again prevention is the best cause of action. The correct equipment and clothing is critical in the prevention of Hypothermia. Avoid letting rain or perspiration wet your clothing. Treating hypothermia is relatively simple. Get the victim into a sheltered area as quickly as possible, remove all wet clothing and place the victim inside two or three sleeping bags, preferably with another person to help heat the victim.

About 55% of the earth’s protective atmosphere is below an altitude of 5000m. The because of the mountain high altitude far less ultraviolet light is filtered out. This make the sun’s rays much more powerful and making severe sunburn possible. It is strongly recommended to use a 20+ sun protection cream at lower altitudes. A total block cream above an altitude of 3000m. It is also important to wear dark sun glasses with UV protection above 4000m in daytime and when walking through snow. Snow blindness can be very painful, and you will need to bandage your eyes for at least 24 hours.


Any hiker who suffers from any cardiac or pulmonary problems should be cautious. They should not attempt to hike the mountain unless they have consulted their physician. We strongly recommend following our fitness program to prepare yourself for the mountain. Please click on Physical Fitness for more information in this regard.

Feet problems

Poor fitting, new or little used boots will result in blistering feet. Even if boots are only slightly too small, they will bruise your toes, particularly during your descent. It is it therefore also important to keep your toe nails short for the climb. Treat developing blisters immediately as soon as you feel the “hot spot. Remove the boot and cover the area with a zinc oxide tape or something similar.

Other health concerns to note

  • Colds, coughs, flu and Covid
  • Dehydration
  • Frostbite
  • Snow-blindness
  • Sprains, fractures and knee problems
  • Diarrhoea

Each hiker that completes a booking with us will receive a comprehensive 22-page Mount Kilimanjaro altitude sickness guide. The guide address altitude sickness and all other health issues related to hiking up the mountain.