The following information is not intended
to be a comprehensive medical guide; neither will medications
and their use be discussed in any detail. There are
number of excellent first aid manuals, specifically
written for use by trekkers in the Himalaya, available
in Kathmandu. The chances of becoming seriously unwell
while trekking in Nepal are probably no worse than in
any other part of the developing world. Provided a few
simple precautions are taken it is unlikely that anything
will occur that will spoil your overall enjoyment of
your trek. Remember, however, that you are traveling
through a remote and undeveloped country where modern
medical facilities are often few and far between. Good
advice is to make sure that you are well prepared for
the trek since lack of fitness can often lead to discomfort
or illness. Something as simple as a foot blister can
totally ruin a trek, not only for you but also for your
One of the most common complaints suffered
by visitors to Nepal is stomach disorder. Whether they
are caused by a simple change of diet, drinking contaminated
water or by lack of hygiene on the part of a cook or
more likely yourself or one of your companions and attack
of "Kathmandu quickstep" is not an uncommon
ailment. The problems can range from mild discomfort
for a day or so, to a more serious onset of vomiting
and diarrhea, which may need treatment to enable the
trekker to continue. In order to avoid, or minimize,
the risk of falling prey to stomach problems trekkers
should follow the following rules.
- Drink only bottled drinks with the
seals intact, boiled/filtered water or water that
has been treated with iodine. Tea and coffee are usually
safe since the water used to make them should have
- Pay particular attention to personal
hygiene with frequent washing of hands, especially
- The hygiene of those you come into
contact with is obviously harder to control.
- Avoid very spicy food if you are unused
- Avoid eating any uncooked vegetables
or fruits that cannot be peeled before consumption.
In the case of a persistent stomach upset
ensure that you keep the body hydrated. Drink plenty
of fluids preferably including a re-hydration mixture,
such as the locally available Jeevan Jal or Gatorade,
and seek medical advice if the symptoms persist. It
is likely that persistent stomach upsets will require
medication in the form of antibiotics.
Coughs, colds sore throats and
They dry air of the mountains combined
with close contact with locals and fellow trekkers will
often lead to upper respiratory tract problems. These
can range from mild inconvenience to debilitating infections.
How serious the complaints get depends on how quickly
action is taken. No amount of precautions, however,
can fully protect you from the chance of a sore throat
or a cough or cold.
Sore throats can best be avoided by attempting
not to breathe cold air directly through the mouth.
Try to breathe through the nose or use a scarf over
your mouth to warm up the air. This is often easier
said than done when climbing hills at altitude when
you tend to be gasping for air. If you do get a sore
throat, suck lozenges or try a chewable vitamin C tablet.
Gargling with a warm water and salt solution can sometimes
give relief. If the problem persists, or worsens, then
treatment with antibiotics may be indicated.
Colds and flu are impossible to avoid
completely whether you are trekking in Nepal or sitting
in your office. The consequences of catching a cold
while you are trekking are likely to have a more serious
affect, however, since you will be exerting yourself
more than normal and breathing may become more difficult.
The problem may also make sleeping more difficult. If
you do catch a cold try to avoid passing it on to your
companions and limit the discomfort by the use of aspirin
or paracetamol. Beware of a cold or flu developing into
a chest infection, which would then require the use
of antibiotics to affect a cure.
Coughs are another one of those complaints
that are common amongst trekkers, especially those trekking
at the higher altitudes. The causes are cold dry air
coupled with smoky atmospheres in teahouses. A cough
can be more than just a nuisance as it will invariably
lead to a sore throat and often will keep the sufferer,
and his companions, wake at night. The treatment is
similar to that for sore throats but, in addition, one
of the proprietary cough expectorants may help. Avoid
Joint and Muscle strains
Trekkers who are not used to walking day
after day will often suffer mid joint and muscle pains
for the first few days on the trail. These symptoms
will generally disappear as you get used to the daily
routine of trekking. What are more serious, however,
do torn or strained ligaments cause actual injuries?
Such injuries can often mean that a trekker has to curtail
their trek or at least travel more slowly than planned.
Prevention is obviously better than cure
and using appropriate footwear and walking carefully
on uneven stretches of trail can avoid many strains.
If you find your balance is a problem on steep sections
of the trail, use a walking stick. A stick will also
help you avoid "sahib's knee", that very common
complaint amongst trekkers who suffer knee pains when
they are descending steep slopes.
The obvious signs of strains or torn ligaments
are local pain and swelling around the joint, usually
the ankle or knee. Application of cold water (or snow
or ice) will usually reduce the swelling and the joint
should then be supported with a crepe bandage and the
limb elevated. Aspirin or paracetamol will reduce the
pain and swelling. If the victim must continue walking.
Use a stick to keep as much weight off the joint as
possible. Consider having a porter help to support the
victim or, in an emergency, carry him.
Remember, what may appear to be a strain
or sprain may, in fact, be a broken bone. If the pain
persists, or worsens, then seek medical advice as soon
as possible or evacuate the victim if necessary.
If you are walking all day for several days it makes
sense to look after your feet. The mot likely problems
you will have are blisters. Wearing well broken-in footwear
will go a long way to avoiding such problems. If you
do feel sore hot spots on your feet while walking stop
immediately and apply protective plasters to the affected
area. Another common way that blisters form is from
wearing unwashed socks. After a few days of use without
washing, the socks will become hard with dirt and sweat
and this can cause blisters.
If you are unfortunate enough to develop
blisters, try to relieve the pressure on them by the
use of adhesive plasters or special blister pads. Avoid
bursting the blister as this could lead to infection,
which will make walking almost impossible. If blisters
do burst be particularly careful to keep them clean
and apply antiseptic cream regularly.