If you're planning an adventure to a high-altitude location, you may be concerned about altitude sickness. Altitude sickness is a common problem when you travel to high-altitude places, and your body has trouble adjusting to the lower air pressure and thinner air.
Let’s say you are planning to take a ski trip nationally or abroad. You plan your trip to arrive, and then you will start skiing or snowboarding that day or the next. You live at sea level, and your destination ski vacation is at a much higher altitude.
Our excitement and adrenaline keep us going, but our bodies might not be able to catch up. Symptoms of altitude sickness can include headaches, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. If you haven’t taken the time to acclimate, meaning slowly adapt to the higher altitude instead of all at once, you may have altitude sickness.
Many people experience symptoms of altitude sickness, and there are different natural remedies and essential oils that can help. If your symptoms are more severe and continue to worsen, seek medical treatment immediately.
Types Of Altitude Sickness
Altitude sickness is a condition that affects people who travel to high altitudes too quickly. It results from a rapid change in air pressure and air oxygen levels at higher elevations. You may have symptoms if you travel to a high elevation without giving your body time to adjust to less oxygen.
It can be mild or severe and can affect anyone, regardless of age or fitness level. There are four types of altitude sickness: Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), Chronic Mountain Sickness (CMS), High-Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE), and High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE).
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is the most common type of altitude sickness. Symptoms occur within the first day or two of reaching a higher altitude. AMS can include headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, loss of appetite, and difficulty sleeping. AMS can be mild or severe and can affect anyone, regardless of age or fitness level.
Chronic Mountain Sickness (CMS)
Chronic Mountain Sickness is a kind of Altitude Sickness that is less common but can be more severe for people who live at higher altitudes. Symptoms are similar to AMS, develop over time, and do not disappear. It is necessary to talk with your doctor for medical treatment or permanently move to a lower altitude.
High-Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE)
High-Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) is a life-threatening form of altitude sickness in severe cases. It affects the brain and can be life-threatening. Symptoms of HACE can include confusion, hallucinations, seizures, loss of consciousness, and a loss of coordination. HACE requires immediate medical attention.
High-Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)
High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) is a more deadly altitude sickness affecting the lungs, making breathing difficult. Symptoms of HAPE can include shortness of breath, coughing, chest pain, and a fast heart rate. HAPE requires immediate medical attention.
Notably, the best way to prevent altitude sickness is to acclimate slowly to high altitudes. If you're planning a trip to a high-altitude location, try to spend a rest day at a lower altitude before ascending to a higher altitude, similar to a stepping stone. This will give your body time to adjust to the lower oxygen levels and reduce the risk of altitude sickness.
For example, when training to climb the spectacular volcano Cotopaxi, 19,347 ft (5897m) in Ecuador. Take the time once you arrive in Quito, Ecuador, which in itself is 9350 ft. (2850m), and rest. There are hikes around the area that you can do to acclimate slowly at the lower elevation, and then when you are ready to go up Cotopaxi, you will be better prepared.
Altitude sickness can be a challenging experience, but in addition to acclimating slowly, there are natural remedies that can help prevent and alleviate altitude sickness symptoms:
Drink A Lot Of Water
One of the most important things you can do to prevent altitude sickness is to drink plenty of water. This helps to keep your body hydrated and can reduce the severity of symptoms.
Once you arrive at a higher altitude, drink water constantly.
Eat lightly. Don’t overeat; better yet, consume less food. Also, eat healthy foods while avoiding junk food. Having prepared by way of a healthy diet before your trip also can make a big difference.
Another way to alleviate altitude sickness symptoms is to improve blood circulation. This can be achieved by doing light exercises such as walking, stretching, and deep breathing. These exercises help to increase the flow of oxygen in your body, which can help reduce the severity of symptoms.
Acupuncture and Acupressure
If you practice acupuncture and acupressure, application to the points in your body can help to prevent or improve symptoms immediately.
If you are traveling in the Andes Mountains, the coca leaf is a traditional remedy for altitude sickness that has been used for centuries. It contains alkaloids that can help reduce symptoms such as headache, nausea, and fatigue. There are teas that you can coca teas that will help.
Maca is grown and cultivated in the highlands of the Peruvian Andes. Maca root is a vegetable that grows underground; it closely resembles a turnip. The root crop is a traditional food consumed in Peru for medicinal and nutritional benefits, including for symptoms of altitude sickness.
Ginkgo Biloba is an herb used for centuries to treat various ailments. It is believed to improve blood flow to the brain, which can help reduce symptoms of altitude sickness.
Cayenne pepper is a spice that can help alleviate altitude sickness symptoms. It contains capsaicin, which can help improve blood circulation and reduce inflammation. However, it is essential to note that cayenne pepper can irritate the stomach, so it is best to start with a small amount.
Rhodiola Rosea is an herb believed to help improve endurance and reduce fatigue. It is also thought to help reduce symptoms of altitude sickness.
Rosmarinic acid is a compound found in rosemary that is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. It is also thought to help reduce symptoms of altitude sickness.
Beet juice is a natural remedy believed to help improve blood flow and reduce symptoms of altitude sickness. It is rich in nitrates, which help increase oxygen flow in your body.
Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and collard greens can help alleviate altitude sickness symptoms. They contain iron, which can help improve oxygenation and reduce fatigue. You can add them to your meals.
Ginger root can help alleviate altitude sickness symptoms. It contains gingerol, which can help reduce nausea and vomiting. You can add ginger root to your meals or take it in capsule form.
Peppermint oil is a popular essential oil for treating altitude sickness. It can help relieve headaches, nausea, and dizziness. It is also a natural decongestant and can help alleviate respiratory issues caused by high altitude.
Lemon Essential Oil
Lemon essential oil is another excellent option for treating altitude sickness. It can help alleviate nausea and vomiting.
Clove essential oil is known for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, making it an excellent choice for relieving headaches and muscle pain associated with altitude sickness.
Thyme essential oil has expectorant properties that can help relieve respiratory issues caused by high altitudes. It can also help boost the immune system and fight off infections.
Eucalyptus essential oil is a natural decongestant and can help relieve respiratory issues caused by high altitudes. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that can help relieve headaches and muscle pain.
Roman Chamomile Oil
Roman Chamomile oil has a calming effect on the body and can help relieve anxiety and stress caused by altitude sickness. It can also help promote relaxation and improve sleep quality.
Lavender oil is a calming and soothing oil that can help alleviate headaches and other symptoms associated with altitude sickness. It can also help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation, which can be helpful when trying to adjust to a new altitude.
Clary Sage Oil
Clary Sage oil has a calming effect on the body and can help relieve anxiety and stress caused by altitude sickness. It can also help promote relaxation and improve sleep quality.
Remember, natural remedies and essential oils can help alleviate symptoms of altitude sickness for many people, but you have to see what works for you. If you experience severe symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
Places With High Elevations
If you are planning a trip to a higher elevation location, it is important to be aware of the potential risks of altitude sickness. Sometimes our trips may include visiting different altitudes, such as on the beach or in the jungle, and then heading to the mountains. You have to plan accordingly and even consider taking a few extra days to build your way up to the higher altitudes.
Here are some popular destinations with higher altitudes that you may want to take extra precautions before visiting:
South America is home to some of the world's highest peaks, including the Andes mountain range. Popular destinations in South America with high altitudes include:
- Machu Picchu, Peru: This ancient Incan city sits at an elevation of 7,970 feet (2,430 meters) above sea level.
- Inca Trail Treks, Peru: The Inca Trail is a popular hiking route that takes travelers through the Andes Mountains, reaching a maximum altitude of 13,828 feet (4,215 meters).
- Cotopaxi, Ecuador: Cotopaxi is an active volcano in Ecuador that stands at 19,347 feet (5,897 meters) above sea level.
- Chimborazo, Ecuador: Chimborazo is another active volcano in Ecuador that is the highest peak in the country, with an elevation of 20,571 feet (6,270 meters).
The Rocky Mountains span across the western United States and Canada, with many peaks reaching high altitudes. Popular destinations in the Rocky Mountains with high altitudes include:
- Aspen, Colorado: This ski resort town sits at an elevation of 7,908 ft (2,410 m).
- Breckenridge, Colorado: Another famous ski resort town in Colorado, Breckenridge sits at an elevation of 9,600 feet (2,926 meters), .with the resort’s summit at 12,998 ft. (3962m).
- Banff, Alberta, Canada: Banff is a popular tourist destination in the Canadian Rockies, with an elevation of 4,537 ft (1,383 m) above sea level.
- Jackson Hole, Wyoming: Jackson Hole is a popular ski resort town in Wyoming, with an elevation of 6,311 ft (1,924 m) with the summit elevation of 10,450 ft (3185 m.)
Remember, taking precautions to prevent altitude sickness is important if you plan a trip to any of these high-altitude destinations. Consult with your doctor, which will better prepare you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1: What is the best natural cure for altitude sickness?
A1: The best natural cure for altitude sickness is prevention. Gradually acclimating to higher altitudes is the most effective way to prevent altitude sickness. However, if you are already experiencing symptoms, some natural remedies and essential oils may help alleviate them.
Q2: How do you get rid of altitude sickness fast?
A2: There is no guaranteed way to get rid of altitude sickness quickly. However, there are some things you can do to help alleviate symptoms. Drinking plenty of water, resting, and avoiding alcohol and caffeine can help. Natural remedies such as staying hydrated, acupressure, lowered slow breathing, a healthy diet, herbs such as Ginkgo Biloba and Maca, and essential oils such as peppermint and eucalyptus can also help with symptoms like nausea and headaches. If you choose an over-the-counter medicine, be careful of side effects. Best to consult with a physician.
Q3: What are the benefits of using essential oils for altitude sickness?
A3: Essential oils can provide natural relief for symptoms of altitude sickness, such as headaches, nausea, and fatigue. They can also help promote relaxation and reduce anxiety, which can be helpful when adjusting to a new altitude.
Q4: What are some effective natural remedies for altitude sickness?
A4: Some effective natural remedies for altitude sickness include ginger, garlic, ginkgo biloba, coca tea, and essential oils such as peppermint. These remedies can help alleviate symptoms such as headache, nausea, and dizziness.
Q5: What foods should I eat to prevent altitude sickness?
A5: Eating a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is important. Foods rich in potassium and magnesium, such as bananas and leafy greens, can also help prevent altitude sickness.