I remember the first time I took a trip to Colorado; growing up in one of the flattest states of the country, I had no idea such glorious mounds of earth existed! Their majestic beauty truly took my breath away – for one, because of how astounding the sight of them was, but also because of the altitude! Ever since then, I’ve made it my purpose to seek out the highest heights and hike up them at fast paces! However, losing your breath, getting dizzy, having a headache, and sometimes even vomiting or fainting can really mess with your enthusiasm! Imagine your perfectly planned trip to the French Alps, Machu Picchu or even just Arizona getting messed up because of altitude sickness. Not fun! I’ve compiled the best ways to prevent altitude sickness and have the mountain experience of your life.
1. Drink Water
If what you’re doing is hiking, your body needs water and lots of it. Not only are you strenuously exerting yourself by climbing up a mountain, but also doing it at greater altitudes. Even if you’re just up high without the hiking, the higher you go, the higher your water intake should be. Along with drinking water, you should also be aware of other ways to keep safe while on a trip.
2. Sleep Lower
This depends on what kind of trip you’re on – whether or not you’re roughing it. But if you are, it’s better to hike up high altitudes during the day and sleep at lower ones.
3. Slow Down
Now I’m talking to myself here. This isn’t a competition to see who can cross the finish line first; if you push yourself and book it up a mountain, you may find yourself greatly regretting your foolhardiness. Remember the story of the turtle and the hare? It’s better to go slow and steady than to try to race your way there. You’ll only end up hurting yourself!
4. Take Medication
This usually isn’t something you’d think of doing unless you’re driving, flying, or boating somewhere, but you could potentially avoid any discomfort by taking acetazolamide a couple days before your trip as well as during it. However, this is not an over-the-counter drug but must be prescribed by a doctor. And remember to pack your medications the proper way to ensure they make it to your final destination with you!
5. Avoid Alcohol and Salty Foods
It’s pretty simple – alcohol and salt are hugely dehydrating, so it would be best to refrain and stick to water, protein bars, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and such. Also stay away from any anti-depressants or sleeping pills.
6. Carry Painkiller
Sometimes in the period of adjustment, the headaches are simply inevitable, so just be prepared with plenty of ibuprofen to take as soon as they hit.
7. Load up on Carbs
It’s best if you keep up a diet of about 70% carbs when you’re hiking areas of higher altitudes. You will need the energy.
In areas of high altitude, it’s highly recommended that you climb no higher than 1000 feet in a day. Don’t overtax yourself just to end up in the hospital. It’s best if you plan for a rest day for every 3000 feet you’ve gained when possible.
9. Turn Back if Necessary
If you’re experiencing major symptoms of altitude sickness, have done all you can to treat them, and are still struggling after 24 – 48 hours, you’d be best advised to turn back and go to a doctor if the symptoms persist. Serious altitude sickness isn’t something you can just ignore and push to the side. You always need to listen to what your body is telling you, even if you don’t exactly like it!