6 Tips to Prevent Altitude Sickness

By InsuranceHotline.com Team
Man resting after climbing Machu Picchu in Peru

If you're an adventure-seeker, you may find yourself at high altitudes – after all, some of the best views are at the top! However, if you're not careful, you can fall prey to altitude sickness and ruin the fun.

Here are six ways to stay on top of altitude sickness while you're on top of the world.

1. Stay Hydrated

Drinking water is one of the most important ways to prevent altitude sickness. Even if you're not thirsty, you want to get ahead of any symptoms.

It’s also helpful to avoid any substances that will dehydrate you. It’s especially important to avoid alcohol, which can worsen altitude sickness. To be safe, stick to water.

2. Arrive a Few Days Early

If you're going to hike at high altitude, consider getting to your new destination a few days early. Much of Canada lies at relatively low altitudes, so jumping on a plane and immediately exerting yourself thousands of meters higher can be dangerous.

If you're planning on hiking somewhere like the Andes in South America, it can be helpful to get used to the higher elevation before exercising. For example, many people fly into Cusco, Peru (elevation 3,400 meters) before starting treks through the mountains to Machu Picchu.

3. Climb Slowly

Changes in air pressure and oxygen make high altitudes difficult. The England National Health Service suggests travellers climb no more than 500 meters on any given day. They also recommend taking a rest day for every 900 meters of elevation gain. Other sources are a little less strict, but it's better to be safe than sorry.

4. Eat Carbohydrates

When you're climbing at high altitude, your body burns a lot of calories. It's important to stay fueled with easily digestible carbohydrates. You want enough energy to get to the top.

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5. Bring Medication...Just in Case

There are some medications that have been shown to help prevent altitude sickness symptoms. For example, acetazolamide (Diamox) is a drug used to treat various conditions such as glaucoma, hypertension, and heart problems. However, it also seems to help with altitude sickness. Always, consult a doctor for their advice.

If you happen to be in the Andes, many locals will tell you that tea made from coca leaves helps improve circulation and prevent altitude sickness. It can also provide energy if you're having a difficult time with the climb.

6. If You Feel Symptoms, Stop and Turn Around

If you start feeling altitude sickness symptoms, get to lower elevation.

Common symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath

Don't try to power through and keep climbing. You could put yourself in danger. Finishing your hike isn't worth putting your life at risk.

Protect Yourself with Travel Insurance

When you're travelling to high altitudes, it's always important to keep yourself safe. The best way to protect yourself from the high costs of medical expenses in the event of an emergency is with a travel insurance policy. Comparing travel insurance quotes is easy to do online and can give you peace of mind for your trip.