If you are not a native to high altitudes, then it is very likely that you will experience some symptoms of altitude sickness if you visit high-altitude locales. About three-quarters of travelers experience some symptoms of this barometric illness, but the good news is that there are easy ways to help prevent and treat altitude sickness.
Recognizing the Symptoms in order to treat altitude sickness
you first must understand and familiarize yourself with the various symptoms that may be present. Altitude sickness occurs when your body does not receive enough oxygen, typically above altitudes of 8,000 feet; however, problems that are more serious can occur above 12,000 feet. Each person presents differently; yet there are certain symptoms that are more common.
Is usually the first symptom of altitude sickness; since the air is “thinner,” it can cause shortness of breath, lack of energy, insomnia, and cause you to feel weak. Milder cases may also include nausea, which can range from indigestion to vomiting. A severe headache may also accompany some of these other symptoms, although it will be worse the first thing in the morning and at night. If you notice an increase in any of these symptoms or signs of ataxia (decreased coordination and motor skills) it’s best to get to a lower altitude as soon as you can, since the altitude can severely affect your lungs and brain and cause serious damage.
Preventing Altitude Symptoms
If you are planning a trip to higher altitudes, you can prepare your body for the change that lies ahead. If cost is not an issue, hyperbaric chambers have been shown to reduce the effects of altitude symptoms. There are also a number of natural substances and medications that will increase the amount of oxygen in your blood prior to and during your trip.
The idea is to acclimate your body to the reduced amount of oxygen, so your rate of ascent will also have a great impact on whether or not you will suffer any of these symptoms. Take your time and don’t overexert yourself, even if you are in great physical shape, and make sure to take a rest if you begin to feel light-headed or nauseous.
Also, make sure you are well hydrated; many people often confuse dehydration for altitude sickness. Your lungs lose more water vapor at higher altitudes and can produce similar symptoms. It is best to avoid alcohol and caffeine since they can increase the rate of dehydration. If it is humid or you are sweating a lot, make sure you maintain your electrolyte balance with a sports drink or supplement.
Treating Altitude Sickness
The most effective and time-honored solution is to get to a lower altitude. Most symptoms will disappear or be alleviated as soon as you reach lower altitudes. However, if this is not an option there are other ways to cope with altitude sickness.
Climbers also follow the rule to “climb high, sleep low” when they experience the most severe effects. To minimize the symptoms, never sleep more than 1,000 feet higher than the previous day to allow your body time to acclimate to the change.
There are also a number of medications and supplements including Nitric Oxide available to boost respiratory function and increase the amount of oxygen in your blood. Many products have shown a significant reduction in the severity and even prevented the worst symptoms. Before using any medications or supplements, you should seek medical advice from a physician.
Carrying supplementary oxygen won’t technically prevent the worst symptoms, but they it can seriously alleviate fatigue and nausea. Depending on where you travel, there are also a variety of local remedies that have been used for generations to combat altitude sickness. While they may not be legal or available in the US, if you are in the region it may be worth trying if you suffer persistent symptoms of altitude sickness.