Acetazolamide or more ‘popularly’ known as Diamox is the magic pill for the sufferers among mountains. The drug that’s gonna help you battle AMS.
Heads up, Diamox can you help prevent AMS or at the most ease your initial symptoms. But it definitely doesn’t cure it. The only cure is to go down, descend as quickly as possible.
WHAT DOES DIAMOX DO?
Your blood is a harmonious amalgam of various biological, chemical and physical components. Now not going into the ‘bloody’ details, the components of concern here, are the ions present in your blood. More specifically addressing two ions, hydrogen, and bicarbonates.
Remember a rule, blood loves basic. (B and B). Therefore anything acidic has to be removed from your body. Now carbon dioxide and hydrogen ions turn your blood acidic and hence have to be chucked out of your body.
Among the two, bicarbonate and hydrogen ions, your body tends to excrete the hydrogen ions and saves upon the bicarbonate ions. Why this prejudice? Because the bicarbonate act as a vacuum cleaner. And this little buddy picks up carbon dioxide, your body generates and throws it out via lungs.
Bicarbonates – IN
Hydrogen ions, Carbon dioxide – OUT
Here’s where Diamox comes into action. It kind of confuses your body. Once you take Diamox, hydrogen is retained while bicarbonates go out. (Uh oh!)
So your blood turns acidic. This is misinterpreted by your brain. Your brain thinks that it is due to excess carbon dioxide (=deficiency of oxygen) that your blood is acidic. It will make you take deep, rapid breaths aka hyperventilate.
Thus you get more oxygen in every breath and your body acclimatizes quicker. Tada! AMS prevented!
Also Read: 10 Himalayan Treks you should not Miss.
WHAT IS THE DOSAGE?
125 –250 mg twice a day, administered for 1 or 2 days before ascent and continued for 2 or 3 days or till your trek lasts, depending upon your need and condition. Higher doses generally are not required. Do consult your doctor for the exact dosage.
ANY SIDE EFFECTS?
Usually, no side effects are seen, in most people at least. But Diamox is a sulpha drug, So if you are allergic to it or haven’t taken one before, consulting your physician might be a good idea.
Also, it is a ‘water pill’ i.e a diuretic. Basically, it makes you pee more than what you normally do. So increasing your fluid intake is also advisable so that you don’t dehydrate yourself.
Diamox is not a ‘must’. Most of the trekkers don’t take Diamox and don’t suffer from AMS either. So only if you are prone to altitude sickness or are absolutely paranoid, then take Diamox, at least that’s what we suggest. At the end of the day, doctor’s word is final, not Google, not Wikipedia, not ours either.