Acute Mountain Sickness: All That You Need To Know

The Himalayan mountain ranges look majestic in pictures but to get to it you’ve got a whole lot of trekking to do. The challenge of climbing a high-altitude mountain is part of the adventure but you’ve also got to prepared for some ground realities like AMS. It’s best to know about how you can deal with the elevation so you can power through. So let’s take you over Acute Mountain Sickness and all that you need to know about it.

What Is Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)?

First, let’s get you acquainted with the term ‘atmospheric pressure’. In simple terms, atmospheric pressure is the pressure of the air that surrounds you. Now, this pressure can drop if you’re visiting a place at a high altitude. You may have experienced this on some level on a flight when your ears suddenly feel blocked. The more the altitude, the lesser oxygen and your body will find it difficult to adjust with the high elevation.

That’s why if you plan on going for a trek or a hike to a place at a high altitude, it’ll take your body some time to get used to the atmospheric pressure there. Generally, if you go anywhere above 8,000 feet, you’re most likely to experience shortage of oxygen and feel the symptoms of AMS. Those who have experienced AMS claim that the symptoms they experience is pretty similar to a hangover. You get a headache, feel dizzy, a sudden fatigue or might even find yourself vomiting.  

AMS or Acute Mountain Sickness is one of the mild stages of altitude sickness. High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) is one of the severe stages of altitude sickness wherein one experiences symptoms of AMS along with the lungs getting incapacitated. It’s a severe and dangerous type of altitude sickness. Another dangerous stage is High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) wherein the blood vessels in the brain dilate and flood it with fluids. These are severe conditions wherein the trekker needs to get medical attention immediately!

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Acute Mountain Sickness: All That You Need To Know

Causes And Symptoms Of Acute Mountain Sickness

As mentioned earlier, traveling to places with higher altitudes means you’ll be dealing with low oxygen levels and low atmospheric pressure. When you’re going for a mountain trek, or skiing at a fast pace, from a lower altitude towards a higher altitude, your body will not get enough time to adjust. This will lead to you exerting your body and eventually developing a higher risk of Acute Mountain Sickness. 

As a result of insufficient oxygen, you may get symptoms like breathlessness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and problems while sleeping. Not every person will experience the same kind of symptoms for AMS. It’ll depend on the severity of your condition and how much you’ve exerted your body. However, most people experience these symptoms within 12 -24 hours of reaching a high altitude. 

There are several other factors that are also responsible for AMS. It’ll depend on how quickly you’re able to gain altitude, the capability of your body during the trek, and the elevation point of your trek. So, it’s important that you prepare yourself for a mountain trek beforehand so that your lungs can function properly even when there’s less oxygen.

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Acute Mountain Sickness: All That You Need To Know

Different Ways To Prevent Acute Mountain Sickness

Nobody likes the altitude sickness while embarking on a trekking adventure, it can be a bummer. But you can take the following precautions to reduce the chances of suffering from Acute Mountain Sickness:

Take Time To Acclimatize To New Altitudes

You need to give your body a chance to gradually ascend to a high altitude. As mentioned earlier, trekkers are most likely to experience AMS when traveling above 8,000 feet. Even if you’re an experienced trekker, you need to prepare yourself for such a challenging trek. 

It’s advisable for experienced trekkers to not climb more than 4,000 to 5,000 feet in a time period of 24 hours. This will help give your body the time it needs to acclimatize to the new altitude and you can look out for any symptoms that might indicate AMS. We advise you to take it slow and easy when going for a mountain trek. If you’re heading to Leh or a mountain in Uttarakhand, add an additional day to your itinerary just to give your body some time to rest. Prepare to add buffer time to your treks as well so that you’re resting enough.

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Keep Yourself Hydrated

One of the most common causes for Acute Mountain Sickness is shortness of breath. When you’re on a difficult trek or hike on a mountain, you’ll notice that your breath becomes heavy quickly. All of this can dehydrate your body and make you physically weak. So, it’s important that you keep yourself hydrated before and during the trek. It’ll give your body the energy it needs to adapt to the weather conditions and help you ascend to a higher altitude.

You could keep a reminder on your phone, watch, or just ask a friend to remind you to drink water. While traversing in a vehicle at a high altitude, it can be very easy to forget to drink some water. So make sure you form a system where you remind yourself to drink sufficient water.

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Acute Mountain Sickness: All That You Need To Know 

Increase The Blood Flow Of Your Body By Eating Right

It goes without saying that eating the right food during difficult treks at a high altitude can prevent Acute Mountain Sickness. Garlic is considered to be one of the best foods to have in mountainous environments. It is effective in increasing the blood flow in your body. Along with that, garlic can also help ease any of the dizziness and nausea that you may experience during your trek. You can also have cloves that prove to be effective in letting your body absorb the oxygen.

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Avoid Drinking Alcohol And Caffeine

By now you know that places at a high altitude can make you experience deep breathing. So, we advise you to abstain from drinking too much alcohol or caffeine. If you do, it’ll cause your body to dehydrate fast. It’s best if you avoid these two things if you want to finish your trek and make the most of your adventure.

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Carry A Relief For Your Headaches While Trekking

A simple headache could become a real headache for you while trekking and hence its best to carry some medications for it as recommended by your doctor. Before you decide which medication to take, make sure to get your doctor’s word on it. 

You can also ask your doctor to prescribe you some medication for pain relief because muscle pain is something that commonly happens on a trek. Most trekkers depend on Diamox (Acetazolamide) to reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness. You can too, if you get the go ahead from your doc!

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Acute Mountain Sickness: All That You Need To Know

Summing Up

Trekking in mountainous areas is a sport for those who love adventure, thrill, and outdoors. It’s definitely a great way to unwind and become one with nature. Something you should prioritize is your safety during your trek. So, next time you plan a trek at a high altitude, take precautions for Acute Mountain Sickness and look out for yourself and your mates.


What Are Three Symptoms Of Acute Mountain Sickness?

The three major symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness are dizziness, fatigue, and headache.

What Happens In Acute Mountain Sickness?

A traveler suffering from Acute Mountain Sickness has problems like nausea, loss of appetite, dizziness, headache, and disturbance while sleeping.

How Do You Deal With Acute Mountain Sickness?

Here’s how you can deal with Acute Mountain Sickness:

  • Avoid going any higher than 8,000 feet in a time period of 24 hours.
  • Keep yourself hydrated.
  • Take breaks during your hike or trek.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol or consuming too much caffeine.
  • Eat the right food to help increase the blood flow in your body.

How Long Does It Take For Altitude Sickness To Go Away?

It generally takes around 2-3 days after the person has descended from the altitude for the symptoms of altitude sickness to go away. In worst case scenarios, it can even take a week; the patient will need to be hospitalized if they’re in a critical condition.

What Is The Fastest Way To Adjust To High Altitude?

Here’s a list of the fastest ways to adjust to a high altitude:

  • Make sure that you’re getting enough sleep.
  • Keep drinking lots of water.
  • Reduce your alcohol intake.
  • Consult your doctor for any tips or medicines that’ll help you successfully finish a high altitude trek.

How Does Altitude Affect Blood?

It’ll get difficult for you to breathe and your oxygen intake will reduce once you’re at a high altitude. This causes your heart to beat faster and pump more blood. It can cause your blood pressure to increase temporarily as it takes time for your blood vessels to adapt to the reduced oxygen levels.

How Do You Stop Altitude Sickness Naturally?

You can stop altitude sickness naturally by doing the following things:

  • Drink lots of water.
  • Eat foods rich in carbs.
  • Keep a slow and steady pace while going to a high altitude. 
  • Stop if you feel you’re exerting yourself.
  • Take medication if necessary for the dizziness or headaches you experience. Make sure that you’re taking medicines that are prescribed by your own doctor.

How Do You Breathe At High Altitude?

At high altitudes, breathing does become difficult because there’s lesser oxygen molecules present. Breathe deeply through your mouth and maintaining good posture while trekking at a high altitude can be beneficial.