What is Diamox?
Acetazolamide (traded under the brand name Diamox) is the wonder drug that fights AMS. It’s often the first treatment doctors give to somebody suffering from mountain sickness. Indeed, often travellers use it as a prophylactic, taking it during the trek up Kilimanjaro to prevent AMS.
How does it work?
Diamox works by acidifying the blood. This stimulates breathing, allowing a greater amount of oxygen to enter into the bloodstream. Always consult with your doctor before taking it to discuss the risks and benefits. If you do take it, remember to try it out first back at home to check for allergic reaction. Diamox is a sulfa derivative, and some people do suffer from side effects, particularly a strange tingling sensation in their hands and feet.
Follow this link for a more detailed discussion on how Diamox works
What are the disadvantages of taking Diamox on Kilimanjaro?
There is one big disadvantage with taking AMS prophylactically, at least according to one doctor serving on the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. He says that by taking the drug in advance, you are using up one possible cure to altitude sickness if you subsequently succumb. That is to say, should you begin to suffer from AMS despite taking Diamox, doctors will have to look for another form of treatment to ensure your survival.
For this reason, a lot of trekkers still buy the drug and take it up the mountain with them. But they use it only as a last resort when symptoms are persistent. If you are unfamiliar with Diamox and uncertain about the effect it could have on you, this is perhaps the best option.
For a more detailed, scientific examination, visit the netdoctor link for a description of the drug and its effects.
Note that some doctors do not prescribe Diamox for altitude sickness as it is not licensed for this. If your doctor won’t oblige you can try to secure some online with internet doctors such as the Nomad store. Note that you will still need to visit your GP to find out whether he thinks you are OK to take them. Which makes you wonder why he won’t prescribe them to you. Or why, if he won’t, you feel you should still go ahead and get some!
Note, too, that we have not tested their service nor their drugs. So we do not accept any responsibility should you be unhappy with them for any reason.