Mountain climbing requires extra preparation because you will explore the forest with a heavy burden. But besides preparing yourself, you also have to be aware of the health risks that might occur while on the mountain and make sure that you are always ready for whatever activities you do up there. Here are seven health problems that may arise while climbing mountains that you should be aware of.
Various health risks from climbing mountains
While climbing the mountain, you will be constantly expose to cold temperatures, heavy winds, and unpredictable rainfall. Basically, continuous exposure to cold temperatures from an outside environment that is lower than body temperature can cause hypothermia, if your clothes are not right or you can’t control your body condition.
Shivering may be the first symptom of hypothermia you feel when the temperature starts to drop, because shivering is your body’s automatic defense response to keep warm.
Initially, chills are usually follow by tiredness, slight confusion, lack of coordination, slurred speech, rapid breathing, and cold or pale skin. But when your body temperature drops too low to below 35ºC, your heart, nervous system and other organs cannot work optimally.
If not treated quickly, hypothermia can be life threatening as it causes shock and complete failure of the heart and respiratory system.
Vertigo is a feeling of unsteadiness or a spinning sensation when the body is not moving or there is no movement around, or the body moves unnaturally in response to other movements. For example, being at a height, looking down from a high place, or looking far away at a high point/object can cause a dizzying sensation typical of vertigo.
One of the problems lies in the inner ear. The inner ear helps regulate body balance. If this doesn’t work properly, you may feel dizzy, spinning or unsteady. You may also experience hearing problems or symptoms of dizziness that increase when your head is tilted in certain positions.
The sensation of a spinning head can be dangerous when it occurs on a mountain because it can easily cause disorientation. The best way to avoid mountain vertigo is to stay off the mountain if you have headaches, migraines, chills, or allergies that have not been treated.
Ringing ears (Tinnitus)
Tinnitus is a persistent ringing in the ears. As with vertigo, if you venture up a mountain with a headache or other ear problems, you could be at risk for this.
When you are thousands of kilometers high, the air pressure from outside will squeeze the air in the ear canal, causing a feeling of pressure and pain in the head and ears. You will have to equalize the pressure in this chamber by various methods, such as pinching your nostrils while gently blowing your nose. If you do this correctly, you can withstand the increased pressure without any problems.
However, sinus congestion caused by a cold, flu, or allergies can interfere with your ability to equalize pressure, which can result in damage to the eardrum.
Barotrauma can strike mountain climbers when they are at an altitude of more than 2 thousand meters above sea level. Barotrauma refers to injuries caused by a sudden increase in air or water pressure, such as during mountain climbing or diving. Ear barotrauma is the most common type.
The change in pressure creates a vacuum in the middle ear which pulls the eardrum inward. This can cause pain and can muffle sound. Your ears will feel congested and you may feel as if you need to blow up a “hot air balloon” in them. The same sensation is common when you are on an airplane.
In more severe cases of barotrauma, the middle ear can fill with clear fluid as the body tries to equalize pressure on both sides of the eardrum. This fluid is drawn from a blood vessel in the lining of the inner ear, and can only drain if the eustachian tube is open. Fluid behind the eardrum is call serous otitis media. This condition can cause pain and difficulty hearing similar to a middle ear infection.