19 July 2017

​How To Overcome Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness can happen to the best of us. It is a risk when you’re undertaking a trek in somewhere like Nepal or India. However, there are some ways to avoid it and to overcome it.

1) Firstly, understand what altitude sickness is.

Altitude sickness can occur when you are traveling in, or climbing in areas of high altitude.It’s our body’s response to the low air pressure and oxygen at this level.

2) Acclimatise properly.

Give your body time to adapt to the altitude and the effects it can have on it. Don’t fly in to a high altitude destination. Where you can, ascend steadily and build two or three days into the trip to acclimatise. As a rule you’ll need 3-5 days at a height of 8,000 feet and above before you climb any further.

3) Don’t climb more than 900 feet in one day.

Don’t increase your location by over 900 feet in altitude in one day.

4) Get plenty of rest.

This is a simple but important way to avoid and combat altitude sickness. It’s particularly important if you have flown into a destination – you’re likely to be jetlagged and dehydrated before you start, which in turn makes you more prone to altitude sickness. So stay hydrated on your journey. Sleep and rest when you get there.

#Acclimatisation is important in avoiding and overcoming altitude sickness. That’s exactly what we’re doing here in this pic at Dingboche on our way to Everest Base Camp.

5) Manage where you sleep.

At night, make sure your camp is not any more than 300-500m higher than the previous night’s camp. Climb high, but sleep low, as the saying goes. It’s important to manage where you sleep. You can obviously climb higher during the day, but drop back down at night to help your body cope and adjust.

6) Have access to medication – just in case.

Meet with your doctor before you travel. Discuss what you will be doing, in the context of your own medical history and also discuss taking medications along to support you. Also, ask your doctor to do a blood test to check for anaemia. It’s a very common condition that means you are low on red blood cells, but it’s important to rule it out since red blood cells carry oxygen around your body.

7) Eat well and drink well.

It’s super important to keep your body fuelled and hydrated. Stay hydrated on your journey. As you acclimatise, try to take on board more carbohydrates as this improves your energy balance.

Stay hydrated on your journey with a travel water bottle

8) Understand the signs of altitude sickness.

Hopefully, you don’t need to act on these signs, but nevertheless, it’s important to know the signs of altitude sickness so you can act on it quickly. People with acute mountain sickness or altitude sickness will present with headaches on ascent (not always immediately), sleeplessness, fatigue, dizziness, light-headedness, and shortness of breath, nausea and/or vomiting.

High Altitude Cerebral Edema is a severe version of altitude sickness. It is rare but serious. It can cause an impaired mental state, inability to walk, or walk straight, drowsiness and changes in speech. This can also escalate into High Altitude Pulmonary Edema, which can also present on its own. The symptoms are a tight chest, wheezing and coughing.

9) How to react to these signs.

If you experience altitude sickness, wait for 12 hours to see an improvement in the condition. If there’s no improvement, descend 1,000 feet until they do improve. If HACE or HAPE occurs you need to descend immediately. If that’s not possible, oxygen needs to be administered, and medical help needs to be sought.

10) Travel with a guide and a trekking company

If you are trekking in the world’s high altitude areas, it’s best to work with a reputable guide and trekking tour company. They will be able to help you manage the risks and protect your safety – which will help you enjoy your trip all the more.

About the author of this blog:

Nima Lama has been trekking in the region for over ten years. The managing director of Mountain Quests, he still regularly leads treks and loves it. The trek to Everest base camp is his favourite – and trekking with Nima means you’ll make a friend for life.Contact Nima and the team at for more information on trekking in Nepal or trekking in India.