Health and safety
Though Kilimanjaro is a steady climb, it should not be taken lightly. You should consult your doctor to check you are medically fit to endure a strenuous activity and able to acclimatize without injury. It is recommended that you are physically fit for the trek and hiking to higher altitudes, where possible, will be beneficial for acclimatization during the actual climb.
Bring adequate supplies of all medications in their original containers, clearly labelled. Carry a signed, dated letter from the primary physician describing all medical conditions and listing all medications, including generic names.
Make sure your health insurance covers you for medical expenses abroad. If not, supplemental insurance for overseas coverage, including possible evacuation, should be seriously considered. If illness occurs while abroad, medical expenses including evacuation may run to tens of thousands of dollars. Bring your insurance card, claim forms, and any other relevant insurance documents. Before departure, determine whether your insurance plan will make payments directly to providers or reimburse you later for overseas health expenditures.
Pack a personal medical kit, customized for your trip (see check-list). Take appropriate measures to prevent motion sickness and jet lag. On long flights, be sure to walk around the cabin, contract your leg muscles periodically, and drink plenty of fluids to prevent blood clots in the legs. For those at high risk for blood clots, consider wearing compression stockings.
Avoid contact with stray dogs and other animals. If an animal bites or scratches you, clean the wound with large amounts of soap and water and contact local health authorities immediately. Wear sun block regularly when needed. Use condoms for all sexual encounters. Ride only in motor vehicles with seat belts. Do not ride on motorcycles.
All the necessary vaccinations should be taken before travelling to Tanzania
It is recommended that you visit your personal physician or travel health clinic 4 to 8 weeks before your departure date
Below is a guide from MDtravelhealth on vaccinations that are recommended before your entry into Tanzania. Please check with your physician on which ones are compulsory as this may delay/effect entry into Tanzania
Malaria: A Prophylaxis with Lariam (mefloquine), Malarone (atovaquone/proguanil), or doxycycline is recommended for all areas at altitudes less than 1800 m.
PolioOne-time booster recommended for any adult traveller who completed the childhood series but enever had the polio vaccine as an adult
Yellow feverRecommended for all travellers. Required for travellers arriving from a yellow fever endemic country
Hepatitis ARecommended for all travellers
TyphoidRecommended for all travellers
RabiesFor travellers spending a lot of time outdoors, or at high risk for animal bites, or involved in any activities that might bring them into direct contact with bats
Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)Two doses recommended for all travellers born after 1956, if not previously given
Tetanus-diphtheriaRevaccination recommended every 10 years
Travellers' diarrhoea is the most common travel-related ailment. The cornerstone of prevention is food and water precautions. All travellers should bring along an antibiotic and an antidiarrhoeal drug to be started promptly if significant diarrhoea occurs, defined as three or more lose stools in an 8-hour period or five or more lose stools in a 24-hour period, especially if associated with nausea, vomiting, cramps, fever or blood in the stool.
An antidiarrhoeal drug such as loperamide (Imodium) or diphenoxylate (Lomotil) should be taken as needed to slow the frequency of stools, but not enough to stop the bowel movements completely. Diphenoxylate (Lomotil) and loperamide (Imodium) should not be given to children under age two.
Most cases of travellers' diarrhoea are mild and do not require either antibiotics or antidiarrhoeal drugs. Adequate fluid intake is enough.
Food and Drink
Do not drink tap water unless it has been boiled, filtered, or chemically disinfected.
Do not drink un-bottled beverages or drinks with ice.
Do not eat fruits or vegetables unless they have been peeled or cooked.
Avoid cooked foods that are no longer piping hot.
Cooked foods that have been left at room temperature are particularly hazardous.
Avoid unpasteurized milk and any products that might have been made from unpasteurized milk.
Avoid food and beverages obtained from street vendors.
Do not eat raw or undercooked meat or fish.
Wear long sleeves, long pants, hats and shoes (rather than sandals). For rural and forested areas, boots are preferable, with pants tucked in, to prevent tick bites and always apply insect repellents
Don't sleep with the window open unless there is a screen. If sleeping outdoors or in an accommodation that allows entry of mosquitoes, use a bed net, preferably impregnated with insect repellent, with edges tucked in under the mattress. The mesh size should be less than 1.5 mm.
If the sleeping area is not otherwise protected, use a mosquito coil, which fills the room with insecticide through the night.
Anti-malarial tablets are recommended for all areas in Tanzania accept for altitudes over 1800 m (5906 ft). Consult your physician about this as most courses have to be started prior to your arrival in Tanzania.
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)
Acute Mountain sickness is the medical term for altitude or mountain sickness, 'acute' meaning 'sudden-onset'. AMS symptoms, if mild or moderate, often disappear if the sufferer rests or ascends no further. if AMS is severe, the sufferer must descend.
Mountain sickness is the effects of lack of oxygen on the body. All your organs need oxygen to survive and when the body doesn't get enough, problems arise. As you gain altitude, the air pressure drops and as it drops your body takes in less air and therefore less oxygen with each breath. To counteract this, your body begins to adapt. Your breathing and heart rate increases and your body makes more red blood cells to carry oxygen. While your breathing and heart rate can change very quickly, the crucial extra red blood cells take a few days to form. Climb too far too fast before this process gets properly under way and the result is AMS (Acute mountain Sickness).
Mild forms of altitude sickness are best treated by rest, maintaining fluid intake, and by a painkiller such as paracetamol. Mild symptoms which have lasted for 24 hours or more can be treated with Diamox which aids acclimatization. Some people take Diamox before the climb as prescribed by their doctor. The use of Diamox is a personal decision. We think it is better to let your body naturally acclimatize and adjust to the decreased oxygen before resorting to the use of Diamox. Serious cases of acute mountain sickness can only be treated by immediate descent.
The guides on the trip have all received first aid training from the Kilimanjaro National Park authorities. Our guides are all highly experienced in dealing with the problems of altitude and their decision will always be final. If there is a problem, the guide will take precautionary action and inform both the national park and our office in Moshi. Contact is usually made by mobile phone, as there is some network while climbing Kilimanjaro. There are a number of national park ranger posts on Kilimanjaro and they also have radios to contact park headquarters in Marangu.
Evacuation from Kilimanjaro is initially either on foot or wheeled stretcher. This is until the highest access point that the national park rescue car can reach - either Shira Plateau, below Mandara Hut or Rongai Gate. The rescue car will transport the client off the mountain usually, but often our vehicle meets the rescue car to complete the journey. During the rescue an assistant guide would accompany the sick client. If the client is very sick the chief guide would accompany the sick client, and leave the group on Kilimanjaro under the charge of his assistant. The client is taken to either a doctor (KCMC Hospital in Moshi) or as in many cases if the client has recovered due to the decreasing altitude / increasing oxygen, they will be taken to rest at Mountain Inn.
All guides have had first aid training. We do not carry Gamow bags or oxygen on our climbs. We pay special attention to avoid altitude sickness by maximizing acclimatization and the guides training means they can recognize the symptoms of serious altitude sickness and organize immediate descent, which is by far the best treatment, on the occasions when this is necessary.