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EAH is the result of drinking excessive amounts of water causing a low concentration of sodium in the blood. Low salt levels occur when individuals drink too much water while exercising and sodium is lost from sweating. This can lead to serious illness and even death if left untreated. The best way to avoid EAH is to drink only when you are thirsty and to also drink sports drinks containing sodium, or eat salty foods such as salted nuts. A period of heat acclimatisation prior to commencing your trek is strongly recommended.

All trekkers should be aware of the following risk factors and symptoms. 

Recognised risk factors of EAH are:

  • Excessive drinking behaviour
  • Weight gain during exercise
  • Female gender
  • Low body weight
  • Slow running or performance pace
  • Event inexperience
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents
  • Greater than four hours’ exercise
  • Unusually hot environmental conditions
  • Extreme cold temperatures

Signs and symptoms of EAH are:

  • Early non-specific symptoms such as bloating, puffiness, headache, nausea and vomiting
  • As the severity of EAH progresses more serious signs and symptoms develop and may include a lack of ability to coordinate movement; agitation; confusion; delirium; reduced consciousness; seizures; coma and death