What is Diamox?
Acetazolamide (traded under the brand name Diamox) is the wonder drug that fights AMS, and the first treatment doctors give to somebody suffering from mountain sickness. Indeed, many travellers use it as a prophylactic, taking it during the trek up Kilimanjaro to prevent AMS.
How does Diamox work?
Diamox works by acidifying the blood, which stimulates breathing, allowing a greater amount of oxygen to enter into the bloodstream. Always consult with your doctor before taking Diamox 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, as Diamox is a sulfa derivative, and some people do suffer from side effects, particularly a strange tingling sensation in their hands and feet.
What are the disadvantages of taking Diamox on Kilimanjaro?
The disadvantage with taking AMS prophylactically, at least according to one doctor serving on the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, is that you are using up one possible cure. That is to say, should you begin to suffer from AMS despite taking Diamox, doctors are going to have to look for another form of treatment to ensure your survival. For this reason, a number of trekkers are now busy buying the drug and taking it up the mountain with them, but are using 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.
Further information on Diamox
For a more detailed, scientific examination of Diamox, 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 you are determined to get your hands on some and your doctor won’t oblige you can try to secure some online with internet doctors such as Doctor Fox. The Nomad store chain also seems to be ready to sell them to their customers. 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 – and do not accept any responsibility should you be unhappy with them for any reason.