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How to Avoid High Altitude Sickness

Updated on September 17, 2014

How to Avoid High Altitude Sickness

Before you take a trip into the mountains, it's good to know how to avoid altitude sickness, also known as mountain sickness. Altitude sickness can be debilitating and hit you all of a sudden.

At elevations as low as 6,500 feet, some people can experience symptoms of altitude sickness. For example, Denver, Colorado, the mile-high city, sits at an elevation of 5,280 feet. Just a short ride up the mountains and you'll be at 6,500 feet.

Photo of Fall River Road switchback in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

Photo Credit: Brian C. Grogan, HABS/HAER photographer in the public domain.

Causes of High Altitude Sickness and Symptoms

The cause of high altitude sickness is not known. It doesn't affect everyone and only occurs in low-pressurized environments like the mountains. Riding in an airplane does not cause altitude sickness because the air in the passenger cabin is pressurized.

One of the first symptom of altitude sickness is headache. Additional symptoms include stomachache, vomiting, fatigue, a dizzy feeling similar to vertigo, shortness of breath, and insomnia.

This snowboarder obviously doesn't suffer from altitude sickness.

Symptoms of High Altitude Sickness

Watch out for these first symptoms of altitude sickness:

- Headache

- Stomachache

- Vomiting

- Fatigue

- Dizzy feeling similar to vertigo

- Shortness of breath

- Insomnia

If you live in a high altitude area, be sure to warn visitors of the symptoms of high altitude sickness. Keep reading for how to stave off high altitude sickness and help everyone have a safe, enjoyable trip.

Safe Travels to the Mountains - Be prepared and enjoy your trip

Altitude sickness can make you feel lousy.
Altitude sickness can make you feel lousy.

Precautions and treatment of high altitude sickness

When you know you'll be entering a higher elevation or altitude, these tips may help you avoid high altitude sickness:

- Avoid drinking alcohol for 24 hours before you ascend because alcohol is dehydrating.

- Avoid strenuous activity the first 24 hours you're at a higher altitude to let your body acclimate.

- Drink plenty of water for 24 hours before you ascend to ensure you don't become dehydrated.

- Take a few antacid tablets before you ascend; the calcium can help you avoid altitude sickness.

- The most effective treatment for high altitude sickness is to get back to a lower elevation.

- Also necessary are getting plenty of rest and drinking water to replace fluids that may have been lost from strenuous breathing and the dry air that's found at altitude.

- Taking oxygen is another option to consider. Doctors in mountain resorts can administer oxygen to patients who have altitude sickness.

Image Credit: The Graphics Fairy.

Have you ever had altitude sickness? How did you handle it?

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    • profile image

      ericsdorsey 5 years ago

      Thanks for this post. People need to be educated on how to avoid altitude sickness. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

    • puppyprints profile image

      puppyprints 5 years ago

      Usually a headache.

      I just keep going and have some Goodys headache asprin and liquids. It goes away.

    • Jogalog profile image

      Jogalog 5 years ago

      I had it while climbing Kilimanjaro. I had to just take things slowly.

    • profile image

      MaggiePowell 5 years ago

      yes... massive headache... water and rest help

    • LornsA178 profile image

      LornsA178 5 years ago

      Thanks for this valuable tips.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Back to share it with friends who need such valuable tips!

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 6 years ago

      I'm one of the lucky few who seems to not suffer - at least I didn't when I was in colorado. Good lens, Peggy.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Very nice tips for altitude sickness. Never had any serious bouts though, but I have seen my friends suffer. Thanks for sharing. :)

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 6 years ago from Southampton, UK

      I suffered from altitude sickness in Mexico City. I had a whole day with intense headaches, but then once they had passed I was ok. In Bogota I didn't get sick, but even the exertion of showering and drying myself afterwards caused me to puff and pant and to break out in a sweat.

    • profile image

      JoshK47 6 years ago

      Great tips - altitude sickness is not fun at all.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 8 years ago from Central Florida

      My mom suffered from this when they visited Pike's Peak. I'll pass these on to her.