Altitude or acute mountain sickness can affect all adventure lovers who try to cram in high altitude activities such as paragliding, trekking, and skiing all in one weekend. The result; a terrible nauseous feeling coupled with headache, dizziness, vomiting, loss of appetite, and shortness of breath. Low oxygen levels at higher altitudes, especially places above 8000 feet is what triggers altitude sickness in people.
While the usual symptoms of altitude sickness such as lightheadedness and disorientation are quite mild and wear off with gradual acclimatization, cerebral edema and high altitude pulmonary edema are some of the severe symptoms of this disease. These severe forms may result in the buildup of fluid in the lungs along with fever, persistent headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, an unsteady gait, and loss of consciousness. To prevent these problems, you can try using some simple natural remedies.
Natural Remedies for Altitude Sickness
Gradual Acclimatization: The gradual process of adjusting to the low oxygen levels at higher places is known as acclimatization. Therefore, people are advised not to fly into and drive directly to a place located at higher altitudes. Instead, a gradual climb over 3000 meters everyday is advisable. Most trekkers and mountain climbers may have heard of the 'climb high and sleep low' regime. This is also the part of the acclimatization process. So people make a base camp at some place, climb higher, and then return to the base camp to sleep. After some time, the body automatically adjusts to the lower oxygen levels at the altitude that you climbed to. This slow and steady process is repeated for all the higher elevations. In certain cases, mountaineers opt for simulated altitude equipment which allows the trekkers to adjust to the lower oxygen levels without having to spend that much time on the high altitude location itself.
Reduce Strenuous Physical Activity: People who are afflicted with altitude sickness should reduce the amount of physical activities such as hiking and skiing till they get acclimatized to the levels.
Avoid Dehydration: One of the most important causes and symptoms of altitude sickness is dehydration. Drinking plenty of water can help solve the problem. Also avoid diuretics such as tea and coffee which can lead to loss of bodily fluids. Smoking, drinking alcohol, and antidepressants are known to further worsen the symptoms.
Prescription Medication: Certain drugs and prescription medication may work well in reducing the symptoms. One of the most tried-and-tested drugs include Acetazolamide which works by increasing the alkaline content in the urine, thus acidifying the blood and allowing ventilation. Other prescription drugs include Dexamethasone and Nifedipine (Procardia). To relieve the headaches caused by altitude sickness, you can use over-the-counter painkillers such as Tylenol, ibuprofen, or Aleve. Take your doctor's advice before taking any of these medicines.
Oxygen Concentrators: Oxygen enrichment by using oxygen concentrators can help relieve the symptoms of altitude illness. At higher altitudes, the most effective concentrators are ones that use the vacuum swing absorption technology. Apart from the stationary oxygen concentrators based on the pressure swing absorption technology, there are many portable ones as well.
In addition to these remedies, you can also try out some herbal cures for the problem. In countries like Ecuador and Peru, having coco tea or chewing on the coco leaves is believed to be an effective high altitude sickness remedy. Clove, garlic, horsebalm, and gingko are some other herbal remedies for altitude sickness. If the symptoms are persistent or increase in severity, then it is best to descend to a lower altitude and consult a doctor immediately.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.