Altitude Sickness: How To Prevent It After Hiking Returning Home?

It is also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), altitude illness, hypobaropathy, “the altitude bends”, or soroche. It commonly occurs above 2,400 meters (8,000 feet). Here are some common symptoms of Altitude Sickness – headache, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, tiredness, loss of appetite, upset stomach, feeling unsteady, shortness of breath, increased heart rate, difficulty sleeping, generally feeling unwell, double vision etc..

8 Natural Remedies Altitude Sickness

  1. Before Travel or Hike: In a pot of boiling water, steep cloves, allspice (Jamaica pepper), bay leaf, celery seed, cinnamon and marjoram in quantities to taste. Mix in the following mints: Basil, Savory and Thyme. Should be taken in advance of anticipated travel or hike.
  2. Chinese Herbs: Also known as ling-zhi or Ganoderma lucidum. Used for over 4,000 years in China, Japan, and Korea, reishi mushroom has traditionally been taken as a calming tonic in old age. It is taken by Chinese mountaineers to help prevent altitude sickness.
  3. Protect Central Nervous System: Harvested from the world’s oldest surviving tree, ginkgo leaf extracts have been shown to markedly improve blood flow through the arteries in the brain, to protect the central nervous system from oxidative damage, and to enhance mental recall and ability in healthy adults. Ginkgo stimulates blood flow throughout the body, from the head to the hands and feet. Hence can help with weak circulation, including altitude sickness, low blood pressure, Raynaud’s syndrome, and intermittent claudication.
  4. Remedy to Stress and Dehydration: Golden root is also known as Arctic root or Rhodiola rosea. Found in mountainous regions and tundra as far north as the Arctic, golden root has benefits similar in many ways to ginseng. A key remedy for long-term stress and physical and mental fatigue, it supports the body’s stress response. Golden root can be taken to prevent altitude sickness.
  5. Reduce Headache: High altitude can aggravate headache. It gets worse when you move your body and subsides when you rest. This headache is frequently associated with dehydration, especially if you have just gone to a higher altitude. If dehydration has occurred, make some homemade dextrose saline: Mix 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and about 10 drops of lime juice in a pint of water and drink it. The moment the dehydration is corrected, a headache will disappear or at least be greatly reduced.
  6. Hyperventilation – Quick Breathing: Hyperventilation is act of breathing more quickly and deeply than normal, and which causes excessive loss of carbon dioxide from the blood. This can lead to alkalosis (an increase in blood alkalinity). It can occur at high altitudes, as a result of heavy exercise, during panic attacks. Take Aconite every 5 minutes for up to six doses in an acute attack. OR A relaxing blend of essential oils of lavender, geranium, and bergamot in sweet almond oil or peach kernel oil may be used in the bath at times of great stress and anxiety.
  7. Get More Oxygen: Oxygen can be used for mild to moderate AMS below 3,700 m. You can get small oxygen cans from convenient store which provides approximately 120 to 150 inhalations.
  8. Folk Remedy: A tea made from the coca plant can be used as folk remedy.

Caution: Severe altitude sickness is a medical emergency. Someone with severe symptoms should immediately descend to a low altitude and seek medical help.


Q. What is altitude sickness?
It also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), is a condition that can occur when a person rapidly ascends to a high altitude, usually over 8,000 feet (2,400 meters). Symptoms can range from mild to severe and can include headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, and difficulty breathing.

Q. How does one avoid altitude sickness?

  • Acclimatize to the altitude slowly by ascending slowly and allowing time for the body to adjust.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and avoid alcohol.
  • Eat light meals and snacks that contain carbohydrates.
  • Avoid overexertion that can lead to rapid breathing and further reduce oxygen levels.
  • Take breaks and rest frequently.
  • If you experience severe symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

Q. At what elevation range is altitude sickness a concern?
It is a concern for anyone who is traveling to elevations above 8,000 feet (2,438 meters). Symptoms can begin to appear at this elevation and become increasingly more severe the higher one ascends.

Q. What should you do if you have altitude sickness?
If you have altitude sickness, you should descend to a lower altitude as soon as possible. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids and rest. In more severe cases, you may need supplemental oxygen and medications to help your body adjust to the altitude. Seek medical attention if your symptoms worsen.

Q. How do I get rid of motion and high altitude sickness?
Motion sickness and high altitude sickness can be alleviated through a variety of treatments, lifestyle modifications, and preventive measures.

  • Motion sickness preventive measures:
    • Avoid reading, playing video games, or other activities that require you to focus your eyes on a single point.
    • Sit in the front seat of a car, or near the center of a boat or plane.
    • Eat light meals before and during travel.
    • Take breaks frequently and get some fresh air.
    • Avoid strong odors, spicy or greasy foods, and alcohol. 
    • Take anti-motion sickness medications.
  • High Altitude Sickness:
    • Avoid rapid ascents to high elevation.
    • Drink plenty of fluids and eat light meals.
    • Take breaks frequently and get some rest.
    • Take medications such as acetazolamide or ibuprofen to reduce symptoms.
    • Wear layers of clothing to protect against cold temperatures.
    • Avoid alcohol and tobacco.
    • Use supplemental oxygen if available.

Q. Why would altitude sickness happen? How is it prevented?
It is caused by a lack of oxygen in the air at high altitudes. This can occur when people ascend quickly to altitudes above 8,000 feet, such as when hiking or climbing mountains. Symptoms can include dizziness, fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, nausea, and shortness of breath. The best way to prevent it is to ascend slowly, allowing the body to acclimatize to the lower levels of oxygen in the air. Other preventive measures include avoiding alcohol, smoking, and sleeping pills, drinking plenty of fluids, and eating high-carbohydrate foods. People with pre-existing medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease, should consult a doctor before attempting to ascend to high altitudes.

Q. Should I be concerned about altitude sickness when visiting Kathmandu?
Yes, it is recommended that visitors to Kathmandu be aware of the risk of altitude sickness. The city is located at an elevation of around 1,400 meters (4,600 feet) above sea level, and the surrounding Kathmandu Valley is even higher. Visitors should take precautions to avoid the problem, such as drinking lots of fluids and avoiding alcohol and tobacco. It is also recommended to take it easy and rest if you feel any symptoms of altitude sickness.

Q. Why do they suggest coco leaves as an altitude sickness remedy?
Coco leaves have traditionally been used as a remedy for altitude sickness due to their high levels of theobromine, a mild stimulant that can help alleviate the symptoms of altitude sickness. Coco leaves are also believed to help increase oxygen levels in the blood, which can help the body adjust to higher altitudes.

Q. What is reverse altitude sickness?
Reverse altitude sickness, also known as High Altitude Descent Syndrome (HADS), is a condition that occurs when a person quickly descends to a lower altitude after spending time at higher altitudes. Symptoms of reverse altitude sickness can include dizziness, nausea, headache, fatigue, and shortness of breath. It can be prevented by gradually descending to lower altitudes.

Q. What are some weird symptoms of mountain/altitude sickness?

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid pulse
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Swelling of hands, feet, and face
  • Confusion
  • Coughing
  • Increased urination
  • Decreased coordination
  • Numbness in fingers and toes
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Unusual cravings for salty foods

Q. What medication can I take for altitude sickness?
It is important to note that medications should only be used to treat symptoms, not to prevent it. If you are planning to travel to high altitudes, it is important to take steps to acclimate properly and prevent altitude sickness before it occurs.

Q. What altitude can you get altitude sickness?
It can occur at altitudes as low as 8,000 feet (2,400 meters).

Q. What does altitude sickness feel like?
It can cause a variety of symptoms, including headache, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, and shortness of breath. In more severe cases, altitude sickness can cause fluid build-up in the lungs and brain, which can lead to coughing, confusion, and even loss of consciousness.

Q. Who usually gets altitude sickness?
It can affect anyone, regardless of age or fitness level. People who ascend too quickly to high altitudes are more likely to experience symptoms of it.

Q. Can animals get altitude sickness?
Yes, animals can get altitude sickness. Symptoms can include dizziness, fatigue, breathing difficulties, and loss of appetite.

Q. How long does altitude sickness affect you?
It can affect people differently, but the effects are usually temporary. Symptoms can last anywhere from a few hours to several days, depending on how quickly you can acclimatize to a higher elevation.

Q. What is the risk of altitude sickness in trekking?
It is a real risk when trekking in high altitudes, and it can range from mild to severe. The risk of altitude sickness increases with altitude, and can occur when ascending too quickly. Symptoms can include headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping. To reduce the risk, it is important to ascend slowly and take time to acclimatize. It is also important to stay hydrated and avoid overexerting yourself.

Q. What is the fastest way to adjust to altitude?
The fastest way to adjust to altitude is to take it slow. Start your ascent at a slow pace, taking frequent breaks and drinking plenty of fluids. Allow your body time to acclimatize to the altitude, and avoid over-exertion. If you experience any symptoms, stop your ascent and rest until they subside.

Q. How long does it take for altitude sickness to go away?
It typically resolves within 24 to 48 hours, as long as you descend to a lower altitude. Symptoms may persist longer than 48 hours if you do not descend.

Q. What are the 3 stages of altitude sickness?

  1. Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS): This is the most common form and is characterized by symptoms such as headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping.
  2. High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE): This is a more severe form that can be life-threatening. Symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing, chest tightness, and a rapid heart rate.
  3. High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE): This is the most severe form, and can be fatal if not treated quickly. Symptoms include confusion, disorientation, difficulty walking, and unconsciousness.

Q. How can I prevent altitude sickness naturally?

  • Acclimatize: Gradually increase your altitude. Allow your body to adjust to the lower oxygen levels and the reduced air pressure by climbing no more than 300 meters per day.
  • Hydrate: Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your ascent to help your body adjust to the altitude.
  • Eat a Healthy Diet: Eat light, high-calorie meals and snacks that are rich in carbohydrates. Avoid fatty, greasy, and salty foods.
  • Rest: Take frequent rest stops during your ascent. Resting helps your body to better adjust to the altitude.
  • Take Supplements: Consider taking supplements to help your body adjust to the altitude.
  • Breathe Deeply: Take slow, deep breaths to get more oxygen into your body.

Q. Can you get altitude sickness at 2,000 feet?
Yes, it can occur at altitudes as low as 2,000 feet. It is more common at higher altitudes, but the risk is still present at lower altitudes.

Q. Can you get altitude sickness at 4,000 feet?
Yes, you can get it at 4,000 feet. It is also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), a condition that can affect people who have recently climbed to a high altitude too quickly. Symptoms can start to appear at elevations as low as 8,000 feet (2,438 meters), and can become severe if you continue to climb higher without giving your body time to acclimate to the change in elevation.

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