Altitude Sickness

Ski Touring in Gulmarg

Health Issues

Numerous factors influence risk assessment relating to medical conditions in the Himalayas. With regards to medical risk, FSH is not a medical organization and cannot make official comments about health. FSH has regular on-going assessments of our approach to medical matters.

Nevertheless, consult your physician on your concerns about travel in the Himalayas. We require all our guests to have a signed medical form before skiing or trekking with us. Please discuss concerns about travel in the Himalaya with your doctor.

The following is an explanation of some of the medical concerns our guests have expressed and how FSH mitigates those concerns: gastrointestinal complaints, trauma handling and evacuation procedure, endemic diseases.

  • Gastro-Intestinal Complaints

    At FSH we take special care to ensure that our clients do not have to worry about stomach problems. Our lodging partner and local restaurants recommended by FSH make sure that their products are stored in a clean environment and that meals are prepared in a hygienic manner. Furthermore, we advise our guests to follow local eating habits and to avoid the typical "tourist meals" based on western recipes.

    In India you will be exposed to health risks if you move outside the lodging partner's infrastructure and FSH's recommended restaurants. Food preparation in most restaurants is inadequate. Do not eat food from stalls on the street or food served on the train.

    Trauma Handling/Evacuation Procedure

    In the event of an accident injured participants will be moved to a hospital in the area where competent doctors are usually available. Should further medical care be needed patients will be transferred to the Private Hospital in New Delhi depending on the terms of the participants' travel insurance an evacuation to another hospital or their home country is also possible. Swiss participants are also advised to become a sponsor of REGA.

    The most effective trauma management is a good physical training before the trip, stretching and warm up exercises before skiing and not to ski or snowboard outside one's ability.

    Endemic Diseases

    Other health matters such as contagious diseases are best managed preventatively. In the hills of India the fresh air, cooler weather, and smaller population ensure that health conditions are better than in the rest of India. After registration for a program with FSH, the participants will receive information concerning the recommended vaccinations you should have before coming to India.

    Altitude Sickness

    The impact of sports activities at high altitude is one of the most common concerns of our guests. The following are some facts about skiing or trekking at altitude. Acute Mountain Sickness or Altitude Sickness can occur but is not a serious concern for our participants as outlined below.

    Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)

    AMS is the term used for some symptoms associated with the physiological reactions to altitudes above 2500m. The cause of AMS is lower air pressure, which means that there is less oxygen available for you to breathe in. The low air pressure makes it harder for your body to get the oxygen out of the air and into your bloodstream, and it also hinders your body to fully recover within the usual relaxation periods.

    You may notice symptoms of altitude sickness about six to 24 hours after you have arrived at an area of high altitude. These symptoms need to be taken seriously and present themselves as follows: a headache, feeling tired, feeling sick or vomit, losing appetite, increased heart rate, feeling dizzy, having difficulties in sleeping or having irregular breathing when sleeping.

    Certain factors may make you more likely to develop altitude sickness including if you: have had altitude sickness before, do strenuous activity or exercise at high altitude, rapidly ascend to high altitude, are younger than 50, are unfit or have lung infection.

    If you have heart or lung disease, you should consult your GP before traveling above 4,000m.

    High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) are two extreme forms of AMS. These are caused by a complex series of physiological changes that occur when we ascend and sleep above 2500 meters.

    Other Health Concerns at Altitude

    Altitude induced headaches are a concern to skiers and trekkers. The air at altitude is much drier than at sea level. This means that the simple act of breathing dehydrates the body. To counter this, we strongly recommend that guests frequently drink, in the morning for breakfast and during the day regularly from their drinking bottles.

    Certain cardiac conditions may pose a risk at altitude. This is rare, and guests should consult their doctor if they have any cardiac problems.

    The reduction in available oxygen at altitude will mean that people will ski fewer turns or walk shorter distances before they feel tired.

    The altitude is not a concern for reasonably fit people without cardiac problems.