How To Prevent Altitude Sickness?

Do you like hiking or flying but get sick from it? Well, this is known as altitude sickness and it can have a variety of causes. The thing is, no matter what the cause, altitude sickness is not fun to deal with. It can take a good experience and make it poor. Well, luckily for you in this article we are going to talk about how to prevent altitude sickness. On top of knowing how to prevent it though after reading this article, you will also know the causes, and signs of it as well as what exactly it is. Read on to learn everything you need to know about altitude sickness and what you can do about it.

How To Prevent Altitude Sickness

How To Prevent Altitude Sickness?

What is it?

Before getting into how to prevent altitude sickness, it is first important to know what exactly altitude sickness is. Well, altitude sickness is a broad term that can mean different things. The main definition though is the same no matter the cause. That is a lack of oxygen at high elevations. The reason for lack of oxygen can vary, but that is the key component with altitude sickness.


The symptoms of altitude sickness can vary widely from person to person. Also, the exact cause of the altitude sickness can impact the symptoms. The main symptoms though of altitude sickness are headache, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

Depending on your elevation these symptoms can impact you with various strengths. Also, the duration can vary. For some, it can last only 12 hours while for others it may last up to four days. Depending on if you are staying at the high elevation really impacts on how long the altitude sickness last. If the elevation change is only for a short period such as a flight, then you might only have symptoms while flying, but if it is from hiking a mountain and the elevation change persist, then the symptoms may also persist.


So, what exactly are all the causes and different types of altitude sickness? Well, the first kind is called acute mountain sickness or AMS. AMS is the most common type and includes most of the symptoms people associate with altitude sickness or a hangover. Most commonly the symptoms are headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, and occasional vomiting. Normally this kind of altitude last 24 hours up to 72 hours depending on how long it takes your body to acclimate to the new conditions.

The next kind is High Altitude Cerebral Edema or HACE. HACE is a progressed form of AMS. If your AMS last too long or is bad, then fluid can build up in the brain. This is what makes HACE different from AMS. Some of the symptoms match AMS with headaches, but other more severe symptoms that come with HACE are dizziness, blurry vision, and disorientation. One other problem is it is hard to keep water and food down. High Altitude Cerebral Edema can be life-threatening and the only real solution is decent since it is hard to keep liquids down and stay hydrated. Luckily, HACE is pretty rare, but it is important to take it seriously when it occurs.

The last type of altitude sickness is High Altitude Pulmonary Edema or HAPE. This kind of altitude sickness mainly occurs at high elevations above 8000 feet and for long periods. With HAPE fluid builds up in your lungs instead of your brain. Symptoms can vary, but mild symptoms include a dry cough and shortness of breath during or after mild exertion. More severe types of HAPE can include symptoms that involve shortness of breath at rest, confusion, and fever. There is not any treatment for HAPE except decent. This is important because if you don’t it is life-threatening. Your body needs oxygen, so if you show these symptoms you need to reduce your altitude.

How to Prevent Altitude Sickness

Hikers on the way to Everest Base Camp

Hikers on the way to Everest Base Camp

So, now that we covered the different kinds of altitude sickness and some of the causes we can get into the prevention of them. The key thing to remember though is while you can do these things sometimes altitude sickness isn’t always preventable. The best athletes can suffer from HAPE no matter the amount of training they did for the higher altitude. Most standard altitude sickness that everyday people will deal with is preventable, however.

The first thing you can do is take ibuprofen. Motrin or Advil also helps. You can take 400mg in the morning and then more every 6 hours. In a double-blind study it was showed to significantly reduce the impact of altitude sickness. This is important to remember if you are going to fly and suffer from altitude sickness.The next thing to do is to make sure to stay hydrated. This means drinking two to three liters of water a day to prepare for your trip. Dehydration can greatly impact your ability to handle higher elevations. Also, if you drink coffee or rely on caffeine to get thru the day make sure to have your share before your trip because caffeine withdraws symptoms imitate that of altitude sickness. Also, you can bring Excedrin with you to get a fast dose of caffeine if needed.

If you are sick before a trip, then the best thing is to try to reschedule and stay home because being sick is magnified at higher levels. Also, take the right medication because some really impact your ability to handle higher elevations. Another key thing is to make sure you have snacks so your blood sugar stays at the proper level.

During the Trip

If you are going to be at high elevations for awhile such as climbing a mountain, then there are some things you can do during the trip to help reduce altitude sickness. The first is climbing high, but sleep low. This means going higher than where you are camping so your body can get a taste of the thinner air before being in it. Also, acclimate yourself as you are on your trip. These means don’t go to high to fast. Get to 8000 feet and then camp a few nights. Then don’t go more than 1600 feet on each of the following days so you can acclimate correctly. Lastly, be sure to stay hydrated on your trip and stay warm. The thinner air is cooler and staying warm is a key part of not getting sick,


So, now you know that there are a variety of different kinds of altitude sickness and also a few different causes. If it is just from an airplane flight, then it won’t last long, but if it is from hiking up a mountain it could last for a few days. Luckily, now you know some key tips to prevent altitude sickness. You know to stay hydrated and acclimate your body. Also, you know some medicines you can take to help reduce altitude sickness. Next time that you are in a situation where altitude sickness might occur you should be able to prevent it with the tips from this article. If you can’t prevent it though, then you know how to deal with altitude sickness properly now.

Tom Chandler

"When your hands hit the floor, they get cut up. When mine hit the floor, they slide with ease"

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