All of our trekking guides have extensive first aid training, and we request you to inform your guide immediately to monitor you closely, if you believe you have any symptoms.
Altitude sickness, also called mountain sickness is a condition that can happen when you hike up a mountain. This occur when your body tries to adjust to the lower air pressure and lower oxygen levels at high altitudes. You may have symptoms if you travel to a high elevation without giving your body time to adjust to less oxygen. Even if you’re physically fit, you can still experience altitude sickness.
The best way to prevent altitude sickness is to go slow, called acclimatization. This process allows your body time to adjust to the change in oxygen levels.
- Walk up: Start below 10,000 feet and walk to a high altitude instead of driving or flying. If you drive or fly to an elevation higher than 10,000 feet, stay at your first stop for at least 24 hours before going higher.
- Go slow: Once above 10,000 feet, don’t increase your altitude more than 1,000 feet a day.
- Rest: Build a rest day into your schedule for every 3,000 feet you climb.
- “Climb high and sleep low”: If you climb more than 1,000 feet in a day, come down to sleep at a lower altitude.
- Know your body: Recognize the signs and symptoms of altitude sickness. Move to a lower altitude or stop going higher if you notice any symptoms.
- Stay hydrated: Drink 3-4 quarts of water per day.
- Avoid alcohol: Alcohol can dehydrate your body. It also has stronger effects at higher elevations, which can impair judgment.
- Eat carbs: Eat a diet that’s more than 70% carbohydrates.
- Avoid tobacco and depressant drugs, such as sleeping pills and tranquilizers.
Symptoms of altitude sickness
You’ll likely feel nauseous and lightheaded. You may vomit and have a headache. Most people who get altitude sickness get the mild form. Symptoms improve once you return to a lower elevation or stay at your current elevation without climbing higher.
Different levels of altitude sickness have different symptoms:
Symptoms of mild, short-term altitude sickness usually begin 12 to 24 hours after arriving at high altitude. They lessen in a day or two as your body adjusts. These symptoms include:
- Fatigue and loss of energy.
- Shortness of breath.
- Loss of appetite.
- Sleep problems.
Symptoms of moderate altitude sickness are more intense and worsen instead of improve over time:
- Worsening fatigue, weakness and shortness of breath.
- Coordination problems and difficulty walking.
- Severe headache, nausea and vomiting
- Chest tightness or congestion.
- Difficulty doing regular activities, though you may still be able to walk independently.
Severe altitude sickness is an emergency. The symptoms are similar to moderate AMS, but more severe and intense. If you start experiencing these symptoms, you must be taken to a lower altitude immediately for medical care:
- Shortness of breath, even when resting.
- Inability to walk.
- Fluid buildup in the lungs or brain.
Who is at risk of altitude sickness?
Anyone can get altitude sickness. Your age, sex and general health don’t seem to affect your risk. You may be at higher risk if you have a lung or heart condition or you are pregnant or you previously had altitude sickness.