To Diamox or not to Diamox


That is the question that has been plaguing me for some time now.  Diamox, for those who don’t know, is the wonder drug that fights Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) and the first treatment doctors give to somebody suffering from mountain sickness. Many travellers use it as a prophylactic, taking it during the trek up a high altitude mountain to prevent AMS.  Diamox works by acidifying the blood, which stimulates breathing, allowing a greater amount of oxygen to enter into the bloodstream, thereby minimizing the symptom caused by poor oxygenation.  Apparently, it is especially helpful at night when respiratory drive decreases.

I have been leaning widely towards taking it, while Donna, my travel partner, is leaning more towards not taking it. My reasoning is that I am paying a small fortune to climb up this mountain (I really do think it should be the other way around where someone pays me to climb this mountain!) and I want to ensure that I do everything in my power to summit.   I have spoken to people who have taken it and they all agree it works wonders and really does prevent AMS.  I personally couldn’t think of anything worse than wanting to throw up constantly with a pounding headache to boot as I attempt to make my summit bid. Donna on the other hand wants to experience what it is like.

We have heard rumours that this little wonder drug costs around five hundred South African Rand (R500).  Miracles it may perform, but at a cost – not to mention having to pay ridiculous consultation fees just for my doctor to write out a prescription for me.  To aid my decision, I decided to find out exactly how much this little wonder drug costs. Armed and ready to throw my question of “do you have a generic (cheaper) version available” at the pharmacists when he tells me the crazy price of 5 tablets, I dialed the number.  He confirmed I definitely need a prescription (there goes saving on a consultation fee) and he would check the price of the tablets for me. So you can imagine my delight when he returned to the phone to tell me that 30 tablets of this magical drug will cost me only R83! Decision made, Diamox it will be!

That was simple!

The only problem I foresee is the fact that to reduce symptoms of altitude sickness they recommend you drink 3 -4 litres of water a day.  Now on a normal hike I’ve done this and it’s no problem. In normal circumstances (a standard day not spent on the mountain), water doesn’t even touch sides, it goes directly past all my insides and straight into my bladder.  So my problem may lie with the fact that Diamox is a diuretic.  Picture this, layers upon layers of clothes to ward off the biting cold the higher we climb, a diuretic plus 4 litres of water a day – right, I may need to source a catheter next.

(Check out marcopolosolo’s hilarious account of climbing Kilimanjaro earlier this year with what she classes as a “small bladder” in her post Peeing My Way Up Kilimanjaro.

Now, I can’t wait to see the look on my doctor’s face when I go and see him. You see I hardly ever get sick and on the rare occasion that I do, I normally have some stupid childhood illness like mumps (don’t laugh) and the only time I ever really get to visit my doctor is when I am about to embark on another adventurous journey and I need an injection of some sort or a full medical to prove that I’m fit enough to do whatever adventure I’m doing. I think the look on his face when I announce that this time I have come for Diamox because my next adventure is climbing a ridiculously high mountain and that my friends will be worth the cost of the consultation!!

Next up on my to-do list, Yellow Fever injection. All I have to do it pick up the phone and make the appointment….

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: To-Do Lists ~ The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread « Walking4Air

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