Millions of people travel to places of high altitude and quite a few of them suffer from symptoms of altitude sickness such as dizziness, headaches and nausea. Most cases of altitude sickness are self limiting and resolve on their own, but, in rare cases, the symptoms can become life threatening. Shortness of breath, excess coughing and pink frothy sputum are some of the more alarming symptoms of altitude sickness. Read following important tips for altitude sickness prevention and have safe travels.
1. Stay calm
Fear is one of the most common causes of altitude sickness. Therefore, having total control on the mind and emotions is one of the most important ways how to overcome mountain sickness. It has been observed that people who are afraid of developing altitude sickness really end up dealing with it. So calm down and tell yourself that you are strong and that very few people cannot withstand altitudes above 3500 feet. Remind your body and mind that altitude sickness is very rare and uncommon.
2. Take frequent rest stops
This is one of the most important ways for dealing with altitude sickness. If you are trekking to altitudes over 3000 ft, you must stop and take complete rest for a day at 3000 feet- which means no activities at all. Put your feet up (literally) and sleep. Think of it as a vacation time and an important rest period for the body to acclimatize. You can even meditate; meditation provides complete rest to body, mind and soul. You might feel shortness of breath, quickening of the pulse and elevated heart rate. All this is normal but you must accept it. Your body is demanding oxygen and is not getting enough of it as the air is rarified. So even if you are feeling good, you must avoid activities at all costs. This is an important natural remedy to prevent altitude sickness as you go up higher.
3. Walk slowly
Walk as slowly as possible. In the beginning you might find it strange to change your pace-but you literally need to walk as if you are walking in the snow while trying not to slip. Try and keep your pace even slower than what you do at home or indoors. This will lower the demand for energy on your body and help you beat altitude sickness. Remember: you might feel tempted to walk fast and reach your destination quickly but this will only set your heart racing, make you feel nauseous and might even set off a headache. So walk slowly and steadily.
4. Drink lots of water
Stay hydrated at all times. Drink at least 1 liter of water per 1000 feet difference in altitude. You might think you do not need all that water, but that is not so. Water helps transport oxygen to all your body parts thereby reducing stress on your body. Hydration is indeed one of the best ways for dealing with altitude sickness.
5. Avoid medicines
It is very tempting to take medicines for headaches, nausea etc. However, you must avoid taking medicines as far as possible. The best thing to do is avoid getting panicky as your body adjusts to the changes by throwing out those debilitating altitude sickness symptoms (nose bleeds, headaches and fatigue). You could take some pain medicines at night before sleeping but do ask yourself if it indeed makes you feel better. If the answer is no, then there is no point in taking the medicines again the next morning. Even physicians specializing in mountain sickness actually warn patients against taking medicines including those like Aspirin. If you must, take these pain meds in low doses-but as far as possible, it is best to avoid using them completely. One of the best medicines for altitude sickness is Diamox®. It is known to relieve altitude sickness symptoms quickly- but try and take no more than one tablet of 250 mg, two times a day for the first two to three days.
6. Do not overdo things
If, despite using these altitude sickness prevention natural remedies you still feel worse; talk to your tour guide who might recommend descent. While it is best not to talk too much at this point, it is important that you give your travel companions details as to how you may be feeling- the more detailed the better since even the smallest of symptoms counts. High altitude sickness develops gradually and if you feel you have taken all precautions but are still feeling terrible, it is best to descend immediately. Even a few 100 meters will make a huge difference in the symptoms and you will feel better simply by doing that.
7. Tips to avoid alcohol
If you are used to a daily drink under normal circumstances, it could be difficult to avoid alcohol at higher altitude. The best thing to do is not carry any on the journey and refuse it completely even if your travel companions offer you. Stay away from beer, wine and all other alcoholic beverages no matter how small their alcohol content may be. Opt, instead, for water.
8. Sleep tips to cure mountain sickness
Sleep with the windows open, at least in the first few days as your body adjusts to the new altitude. Your body will be very grateful if you sleep in well aired and ventilated rooms/tents etc. You can also raise your upper body a few inches by placing pillows or raising the height of the bed. Avoid taking tranquilizers or sleep aid medication as they will only delay the process of your body adapting to the mountains. Try and walk a few 100 meters and back down before going to bed-this will help prevent sickness during the night.
9. What to eat to avoid altitude sickness?
Eat plenty of carbohydrates for quick energy. Eat small but frequent meals. Bananas, avocados, broccoli and canned soups and fruits are some staples to eat to avoid altitude sickness.
Try these 9 tips to reduce altitude sickness and safeguard against these debilitating symptoms.