First aid and health on the mountain is of utmost importance and should be taken very seriously. Prevention is logically the best cure. A competent and confident First Aider should be appointed with sufficient knowledge and experience. The St.John’s Ambulance in Nairobi does offer training program in basic first aid.
The first aid kit should be airtight/waterproof and preferably hard case but light. It should be kept in a location where it is easily accessible. Medical conditions on the mountain can range anything from minor cuts and bruises to severe conditions such as HACE and HAPE.
Most climbers experience AMS (acute mountain sickness) on Mt.Kenya though they don’t realize it. Mild symptoms include headache, fatigue, vomiting, dizziness, hypoxic conditions and disturbance in sleep patterns. It is advisable to acclimatize in Nairobi for at least four days before attempting to climb. A night stay at Met station is also advisable. A slow ascent is generally the best thing to do, ensuring plenty of water in take.
HAPE and HACE are more severe and should be treated immediately before the condition progresses. HAPE is characterized by a cough with frothy bloody sputum and can be fatal if untreated. HACE symptoms include ataxia, mental confusion, headache, slurred speech and mental confusion. Due to our inexperience with this condition on the mountain we cannot advice on any actions to take but generally it would be a good idea to stop ascending and either stay at that altitude or possibly descend.
Hypothermia is also common is due to continual exposure of the body to the elements and reduction of the core body temperature below normal limits. It is best to keep warm and have an extra layer of clothing handy to put on when resting while hiking. As most body heat is lost from the head wearing a cap or a woollen hat helps.
Blisters can make the hiking conditions painful and are best avoided altogether. They normally arise due to the friction of the skin with the shoe. People do often wear two pairs of socks to prevent them. Another method used by some local climbers is to soak the feet in dilute methylated spirit to harden the skin, but we highly do not recommend this. It is also a good idea not to wear shoes you have never worn before and not used to. Loosely fitted shoes do also contribute to blisters. There is not much that can be done about blisters, applying blister pads and cushioning does help.
Sunburns and snow blindness are both common. The sun (UV rays) is powerful and unfiltered at this altitude. Sun shades/goggles, lip balm and sun block are very useful.
Frostbite is often painful. It can lead to amputations if severe and untreated. Minor cuts are resolved relatively with easy using Elastoplasts.
Essential First Aid Kit.
- Triangular sling
- Safety pins
- Blister pads
- Sunblock (SPF 30+)
- Lip balm (Blistex, Aloe Vera, Lypsyl)
- Adhesive tape (Micropore tape)
www.MountKenya.org takes no responsibility what so ever for the consequence of using the medical information provided.
ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR PHARMACIST BEFORE TAKING ANY MEDICATION
- Aspirin 300mg for fever and headaches (Not recommended for children under 12yrs, asthmatics and persons with a history of ulcers)
- Ibuprofen 400mg for muscle aches, fever and temperature (Not recommended for asthmatics and persons taking blood pressure lowering tablets)
- Paracetemol 500mg for headache and colds. Normal dosing 1 or 2 tablet four times a day, no more than 8 tablets in 24 hours
- Antacid for stomach upsets and acidity on the mountain due to change in diet (Sodium containing antacids are not recommended for persons taking blood pressure reducing tablets)
- Hydrocortisone cream is normal applied sparingly for insect bites and dermatitis. This cream cannot be used on broken skin, near the face or other mucosal membranes and should not be used for more than seven days (Not recommended for patients under 10 yrs of age and if pregnant or breast feeding)
- Diamox (Acetolamide 250mg) often used as a prophylaxis against mountain sickness (unlicenced use). however, this drug cannot be used as a substitute for acclimatisation and may cause drowsiness (To be used only under proper advice of a pharmacist)
- Throat lozenges (Dequacaine, Tyrozets or Dequadin)
- Imodium (Loperamide) normal dosing two tablets when bowel movement occurs then one after every movement, maximum 8 tablets in 24 hours (Consult your pharmacist if you have hepatic or gastric diseases)
- Oil of clove (dental use)
- Water purification tablets
- Oral rehydration salt (Diorylate) for replacement of fluid and electrolytes in the body due to dehydration or diarrohea. Prepare the sachets in either cooled boiled water or water for drinking adding the volume stated in the product information leaflet
- Nytol one a night (sleeping aid) one tablet to be taken one hour before planning to sleep, may cause drowsiness
- Iodine/dettol (wound disinfectant)
- Decongestant (Pseudoephedrine) (Not to be used in hypertensives)
- Deep heat (muscular pain, sprain)
- Cough syrup pholcodeine or codeine for dry coughs or normal chesty cough mixture