Altitude sickness is a set of symptoms that affect a person when they are exposed to high altitudes, typically above 2400 meters within a short time. You will be affected by this sickness if you climb a mountain, ski, hike, or travel on a higher elevation.
The symptoms could include headache, dizziness, rapid heart rate, throwing up, loss of appetite, nausea, and shortness of breath, among others. This article highlights the causes of these symptoms and how to avoid altitude sickness. Read on to learn more.
Causes of Altitude Sickness
The higher altitude you go, the lower the air pressure and oxygen levels. While your body can handle the change and gradually adjust, you will likely experience intense symptoms if you climb very fast. Ascending gradually is the best way to avoid altitude sickness.
Besides ascending quickly, you’re also at a high risk of having this illness if:
- You have been sick of the same before
- You are drunk, which affects acclimatization
- You’re less acclimatized with the altitude
- You have an illness involving the lungs, heart, or nervous system.
How to Avoid Altitude Sickness
The human body needs about three days of slowly climbing to adjust to the shift in oxygen level and air pressure. Avoid flying directly to altitudes over 8000 feet and instead do it in bits such that each day you sleep at an elevation of between 300m and 500m. These stops and rests at points of lower elevation will speed up the acclimatization process in your body.
2. Stay Hydrated
Experts well informed on how to avoid altitude sickness recommend drinking water twice as much as you usually do. It is because the higher altitudes have low humidity that subsequently keeps the air dry and your body dehydrated. Hydrating frequently during your climb prevents altitude illness.
3. Avoid Alcohol
Alcohol and other substances like some medications and caffeinated drinks are known to worsen altitude sickness. Avoid the temptation to smoke, drink or take sleeping pills before and when traveling to a higher altitude. You can wait at least 48 hours after getting to your destination before taking a drink.
4. Eat Carbohydrates
Carbs usually need less oxygen for digestion compared to fats. At higher altitudes, where oxygen levels are lower, carbs will be easily digested to give you the calories and energy you need to keep on climbing to your destination.
5. Sleep Lower
Symptoms of altitude sickness usually worsen at night when you sleep. Experts advise climbing higher during the day and getting back to a slightly lower altitude at night to sleep. This is a tip you shouldn’t forget more so if you plan to climb over 1000 feet in a day.
Different people react differently to high altitudes. The surest thing on how to avoid altitude sickness is to climb gradually and consider the above tips. If you have underlying health problems, consult with your doctor first before you set out to travel higher.