Altitude sickness

Altitude Sickness: Causes, symptoms & precautions

Altitude sickness also known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is the most common problem faced by travellers when there is a change in altitude. Most travellers take this issue very lightly and do not take necessary precautions while travelling. This leads to a lot of strain on one’s health and can be fatal too. You cannot judge who will be affected by altitude sickness so the best thing to do is be prepared before- hand. People who directly fly to higher altitudes are at a greater risk of getting altitude sickness compared to the ones who travel by road.

What causes Altitude sickness?

  • In simple words when the percentage of oxygen decreases in the atmosphere as you get higher you start getting sick.
  • The percentage of oxygen remains unchanged till 2,400 meters (8,000 feet) so a traveller is all fine till they touch 2,400 meters.
  • Dehydration is another cause of as the water vapor from the lungs starts to evaporate.
  • Most commonly occurs due to a rapid ascend in altitude.


Symptoms of Altitude sickness:

The most common symptoms of Altitude sickness are as follows:

  • Headache
  • Stomach illness
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Light headedness
  • Insomnia
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nosebleed
  • Persistent rapid pulse
  • Drowsiness
  • Swelling of hands, feet and face

These are some of the most common symptoms of Altitude sickness. Exerting yourself while facing these symptoms will aggravate the issue and cause bigger problems. Altitude sickness usually subsides in two to three days after the ascent and very rarely do they become into a more serious illness. The severe symptoms are explained further in this article.


Severe symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath even while resting
  • Fever
  • Symptoms similar to bronchitis
  • Dry cough
  • Swelling up of the brain (cerebral edema)
  • Increased nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Gradual loss of consciousness
  • Headache that does not respond to medicines

If one is facing these severe symptoms they should be rushed to a hospital immediately and given proper treatment.



There are three efficient ways to prevent altitude sickness and they are as listed below:

  1. Acclimatization

Make sure you take time off to acclimatize when you travel to higher altitudes. Once you reach a destination with an altitude higher than 2,400 meters (8,000 feet) make sure to stay indoors, rest there and then talk little walks around so that the higher altitude doesn’t take a toll on your body. By doing so your body will adjust to the altitude in a day or two and you won’t face altitude sickness.

  1. Carry proper medicines

Before doing a trip to a high altitude region, make sure to visit a doctor, do a thorough check-up and ask the doctor for medicines in case you are hit by altitude sickness.

  1. Oxygen enrichment

Always make sure to carry a supplement of oxygen enrichment so it can stabilize the effects of altitude sickness on a person. Most drivers and locals always have these stored with them for kids and old people on such trips. They are of great help and very effective.

  1. Hydration

Make sure to keep drinking small amounts of water as it helps cope with altitude sickness. Also do not drink excessive amount of water as that will make you feel nauseated.

These are some ways to prevent altitude sickness and its best to be well educated about this sickness if you are planning a trip to the mountains soon.


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