Today we’re counting down the best natural remedies for altitude sickness.
When you hear of altitude sickness, don’t think too deep because this condition is commonly called mountain sickness. It happens when you reach certain heights and strikes when you walk, climb, or fly to a higher altitude and elevation too fast. Altitude sickness is common with people that travel by air, hikers, divers, and adventurists.
You might not be familiar with this condition if you haven’t traveled to areas with high altitudes. So, in this guide, you will learn about the concepts of altitude sickness, its symptoms, and natural remedies.
What is Altitude Sickness?
Altitude sickness occurs as a result of increased pressure. Atmospheric pressure reduces with increasing altitude. The pressure that surrounds individuals at high altitudes is called barometric pressure. The reduced pressure lowers the amount of oxygen in the air.
The insufficient amount of oxygen at this height is one of the primary causes of altitude sickness. The body will not have enough time to acclimatize to the new pressure, especially when climbing, flying, or walking to this altitude rather too quickly. The inability to adapt causes physical distress that leads to altitude sickness.
Altitude sickness can occur at heights higher than 2400 meters above sea level. Most times, this condition is mild, but it can be life-threatening in some cases. Some symptoms can start immediately after arriving at this altitude. Treatment for mild cases can resolve before three days. Severe cases might require moving to a lower height with supplementary oxygen and medications.
Symptoms of Altitude Sickness
The symptoms of altitude sickness are evident and apparent at extreme heights. You might even mistake them for common conditions like fever if you are not aware of the changes around you. Sometimes, altitude sickness symptoms vary with different types, and it becomes apparent after 12-24 hours.
Here are some of the symptoms of altitude sickness;
- Loss of appetite
- Problem with sleep
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of energy and fatigue
- Loss of body coordination
- Inability to walk
- Cough that produces a pink or white frothy substance
- Tightening on the chest
Types of Altitude Sickness
There are three types of altitude sickness. Each class is distinguished by specific symptoms even though they have many signs in common. Below is a highlight of the types of altitude sickness;
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)
AMS is the most common type of altitude sickness, and it is often the mildest. It is not life-threatening, and the symptoms will disappear after two to three days. The common symptoms of AMS include muscle aches, nausea, and dizziness.
High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)
HAPE is less common compared to AMS. But it is more acute and can be life-threatening. It is characterized by the buildup of fluids in the lungs accompanied by other symptoms.
High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE)
HACE is the most acute and severe type of altitude sickness. It forces fluid in the brain, and it is dangerous and life-threatening. It is best to move to a lower altitude and immediately seek medical attention to avoid this type of altitude sickness.
Natural Remedies for Altitude Sickness
Most people that are familiar with high altitudes can relate to the severity of altitude sickness. Consequently, they often prepare over-the-counter medications before their height adventure. But there are natural remedies that can help you prevent the need for altitude sickness treatment.
These natural remedies cost less and are effective. Besides, they have lesser risks and also offer more health benefits to the body. You can integrate these natural options as part of your diet or use them specifically for this purpose. Here are natural remedies for altitude sickness;
1. Beet Juice
Higher altitude means increased pressure and reduced oxygen. It limits the amount of oxygen left for your body to use. So, your body needs anything that can help it to optimize the oxygen supply.
Beets can help you to supplement and work effectively with the oxygen supply. It contains a high level of nitrate, which the body actively converts to nitric oxide. This compound helps the body to maximize oxygen supply by relaxing and dilating blood vessels. It also helps the body’s rapid acclimatization to altitude change.
2. Rhodiola Plant
The Rhodiola plant is common on mountains at high altitudes. It is an energy-boosting plant that reduces and eliminates the symptoms of altitude sickness. The increased pressure and reduced oxygen at high altitudes can cause physical and psychological stress. This Rhodiola plant increases the body’s resistance to stress.
This plant is effective for increasing performance at high altitudes and boosts endurance. Besides, it is a vasodilator that improves oxygen efficiency in the body cell.
3. Drink Plenty of Water
Water is an essential part of human life. Staying hydrated is undoubtedly an effective way to stay away from various types of sicknesses and their symptoms. This principle also works for altitude sickness. You don’t have to wait until you are thirsty before drinking water as you approach high altitudes.
The pressure at high altitudes can make you urinate more times than usual. The direct implication of this is the reduction of oxygen level because you breathe more rapidly and deeply. Similarly, the humidity at higher altitudes causes you to sweat more rapidly. So, you lose more water and oxygen this way.
Drinking lots of water is the only way to help you cover up for this loss. It helps you stay energetic and hydrated.
4. Eat Lots of Carbs
The food you eat at high altitudes is different from those required at sea level. One of the first things to consider is the amount of oxygen necessary to digest the food. It is best to take more foods that require lower oxygen, considering the oxygen depletion level at high altitudes.
Carbs are rich in carbohydrates, which have double benefits. Firstly, it will supply the body with the high energy required to remain active at this altitude. Also, it requires less oxygen for its digestion. Hence, it helps you with oxygen conservation.
5. Steady Your Breath
As simple as it sounds, a steady and straightforward breath can help you deal with high altitude conditions. It provides the body with proper oxygen conservation and utilization. Slowing down your breath and going steady with it will increase your oxygen level.
This concept is not new to Yoga enthusiasts. It helps in certain physically stressful situations at sea level. All you need to do is master the technique of slow and steady breath.
6. Avoid Taking Caffeine and Alcohol
Everything you do at high altitudes should focus on hydration and conserving oxygen. Caffeine and alcohol will do the opposite to the body. Both substances can dehydrate the body and depress breathing. This condition will lead to a shortage of oxygen in the body, which triggers and aggravates altitude sickness symptoms. You should stay away from smoking as well.
7. Maca Root
Maca root has medicinal and health benefits that can help with altitude sickness. It is also an energy booster that strengthens the body. It also helps the body acclimatize at high altitudes quickly. You can use the fine form with water or make it into a cold tea.
8. Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo biloba is another natural option for managing altitude sickness. It is useful for improving blood circulation and helps the brain to remain functional even with low temperature. This plant is active for coping with oxygen depletion at high altitudes by enhancing oxygen saturation in the body.
So, it prevents altitude sickness and eliminates the common symptoms.
9. Hike Slowly
One of the significant causes of altitude sickness is rushing to attain high altitude. It is best to take the journey to high altitude as a marathon and not a sprint. Slow and steady! A slow increase in height helps your body acclimatize quickly. This technique is essential for those going to this altitude for the first time.
10. Take Enough Snacks
It would be best if you had something to help you stay energized at high altitudes. Take suitable snacks that can help you sustain energy and manage your oxygen supply. But it is best to avoid snacks that will dehydrate you or require high oxygen for digestion.
Who Can Get Affected By Altitude Sickness?
Altitude sickness occurs in areas with a height higher than 3000 meters above sea level. High altitudes demand more energy and physical exertion. It forces you to burn more calories even without doing anything.
Nobody is immune to this condition as long as he or she reaches this level or higher. However, the risk is lower if you are young, energetic and fit without any underlying health conditions. Older people might be more vulnerable to this condition as they approach high altitudes. You might need to abstain from high altitudes if you have certain health complications (especially breathing problems). Alternatively, you can seek medical advice before embarking on such an adventure.
It is best to prepare for this condition even before attaining this altitude. The natural remedies above will actively help you to prevent and avert the symptoms of this condition.
Frequently Asked Questions About Altitude Sickness
Attaining high altitudes is a common occurrence, particularly with travelers, hikers, and adventurists. Most individuals find the concept of altitude sickness confusing because it shares the same symptoms with some common conditions like a fever. So, it is understandable if you have any questions about this condition and the possible solutions.
Here are some frequently asked questions about altitude sickness and the possible natural remedies;
Can I use any medications for altitude sickness?
Yes, certain medications can help you to get rid of altitude sickness. But it is best to consult your doctor and seek medical advice before using any medicines. Likewise, you should understand your present health condition as well.
Do bananas help you with altitude sickness?
Bananas are highly nutritious and rich in potassium. It is one of the best foods that make you feel lighter and more energized. But it is not an ideal option for altitude sickness. Banana has a high salt and complex carbohydrate. So, it can cause faster dehydration, and it will require more oxygen for proper digestion.
Why does water help with altitude sickness?
Water is a natural remedy for many health conditions. One of the significant problems at high altitudes is oxygen depletion and increased pressure. So, taking enough water will help you stay hydrated and recover the fluid lost from frequent urination at high pressure.
Likewise, oxygen is one of the significant components of water. Hence, it provides an alternative source of oxygen and complements the depletion at this height.
How can I prepare my body for high altitude?
One of the best ways to avert altitude sickness is properly preparing your body. Start by going for a medical check-up to ensure that you are healthy and fit. You can also go for aerobic training and learn about yoga breathing techniques.
Drink a lot of water and increase the altitudes gradually. Ensure that you give your body enough time to acclimatize, and you can also try various herbal and natural remedies.
Does caffeine help with altitude sickness?
Dehydration is one of the significant problems you have to face at high altitudes. Caffeine will not help you to mitigate dehydration. Taking coffee or other high caffeine drinks before climbing might not be the best thing to do, except you have quality plans for rehydration.
A Final Word From Wellness Nova
You don’t have to be a climber, hiker, or adventurist before dealing with altitude sickness. If you have been dreaming of traveling by air, you might also have to deal with this condition. But there is nothing to brood over. There are effective natural remedies that can help you to manage and mitigate the symptoms of this sickness.
These natural remedies won’t cost much and mostly has to do with your body preparation. They are practical and also come with lower risks. You can rest assured about a better altitude experience with any of the natural remedies above. Feel free to explore these options before embarking on your ascension journey!