The Top 5 Health related Dangers on Mount Everest

Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world draws many climbers to its high slopes every year. Sadly, some will end up becoming a victim to a health related problem, which while on Mount Everest this can become potentially deadly. Here we look at the top five, these are not in any order.

1: High altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) 

High Altitude Pulmonary Edema affects the lungs. Fluid can build up in the lungs when a climber ascends to high in a very quick time or does to much vigorous exercise at high altitude. The climber will become short of breath, have a fast heart rate and possibly get a cough. If the climber does not descend immediately he or she can drown from the fluids in the lungs.

2: High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) 

High altitude Cerebral Edema is a form of Acute Mountain Sickness but much more deadly. Your brain tissue will swell up from fluid leakage which can lead to death. This usually happens when a climber ignores the signs of AMC (vomiting, nausea, headache, dizziness) and continues with their climb. Other signs will include loss of memory, hallucinations, loss of coordination, decreasing levels of consciousness, irrational behaviour and eventually a coma.

3: Frostbite

Frostbite can happen when you are in an extreme cold environment, like the slopes of Mount Everest. Frostbite is caused by freezing of the tissues of the affected parts. This happens because the air at high altitude is very dry, the climber will lose fluids through sweating and not drinking enough, this leads to blood viscosity where not enough oxygen is supplied to the capillaries resulting in frostbite. Frostbite is also caused by not keeping certain parts of your body covered or warm. Climbers will get frostbite on areas such as their toes, fingers, nose, earlobes and cheeks.

4: Hypothermia

Hypothermia is when your body temperature drops below the required temperature for normal metabolism and body functions which is defined as 35.0 °C (95.0 °F). High up on Mount Everest the temperature plummets well below freezing and if you are not dressed accordingly or drinking enough hot drinks then you could be at risk of getting Hypothermia. As your body temperature decreases, characteristic symptoms occur such as shivering and mental confusion. Other signs include looking pale, fingers, toes and lips may become blue, not being able to speak properly, fast heart rate and uncontrollable muscle spasms.

5: Snow Blindness

Snow blindness is a very painful eye condition caused by exposure of insufficiently protected eyes to the ultraviolet (UV) rays from natural sources like the sun or snow. The Western Cwm on Mount Everest is known for being beautiful yet extremely hot and very blinding. If the climber removes their sunglasses even for a short time then there is a high chance of getting snow blind. Symptoms include increased tears and a feeling of pain, likened to having sand in the eyes. Thankfully, with the right treatment, eye drops and medication, snow blindness will only be a temporary thing. To prevent snow blindness you should wear mountain sunglasses or goggles at all times when climbing on snow.

There are probably other health related conditions to be aware of when climbing on Mount Everest but these are what I consider the most important. Don’t let these put you of living your dream, if you look after yourself in the right way then the chances of becoming ill will be a lot less.