How to Get Rid of Altitude Sickness

By Karon Warren

Easy steps to prepare for higher elevations

How to Get Rid of Altitude Sickness

Take your travels to a higher level, such as you'll find in Denver’s scenic mountaintops. They reach more than 14,000 feet above sea level, providing optimal opportunities for postcard-worthy photographs. However, without careful preparation before and during your visit, altitude sickness could be an unwelcome companion. Altitude sickness is the result of traveling to higher elevations too fast, when your body struggles to get the oxygen it needs because of the thinner air. Symptoms could include headaches, dizziness, nausea and fatigue. Therefore, to keep altitude sickness at bay, include these six steps in your travel plans.

1. Drink water

In most cases, the higher the altitude, the drier the air, so it’s important to stay hydrated throughout your visit. In fact, it’s best to start taking in extra water a few days before your trip and then continue drinking an increased amount of water during your stay. Drinking enough water is the most-effective way to ward off altitude sickness, so don’t think twice about reaching for another glass.

2. Limit alcohol

Drinking alcoholic beverages could make it much harder to acclimate to higher elevations and avoid altitude sickness. These drinks could lead to dehydration, as well as exacerbate the symptoms of altitude sickness. That’s not to say alcoholic beverages are off the table. Instead, take care to limit alcohol intake until your body has adjusted to its new, higher location.

3. Feed your body

This may sound like a no-brainer, but actually, your body needs the right fuel to fight off altitude sickness. Look for foods rich in potassium, such as bananas, and complex carbohydrates, including whole grains, potatoes and beans. Avoid foods high in salt, which could lead to dehydration.

4. Take it easy

Exploring a high-altitude destination could mean a lot of activity, including skiing, hiking and biking. While these are worthy pursuits, don’t jump right into the action; instead, ease into it slowly the first day or two so your body has a chance to acclimate to the thinner air. Doing so could help ensure a healthy and happy remainder of your vacation.

5. Don’t rush

If possible, take your time getting to your final high-elevation destination. For example, say you fly into Denver (elevation: 5,280 feet) on your way to Keystone, Colo. (elevation: 9,173 feet). Consider spending a night in Denver to give your body time to adjust to the higher elevation before subjecting it to the highest elevation during the trip.

6. Talk to your doctor

If you or anyone in your traveling party already suffers from medical conditions, speak with your physician and find out what he or she recommends for your trip. Some medications are available that can help offset the symptoms of altitude sickness, and it’s possible one could provide assistance during your trip.

You'll find a lot to see and enjoy when visiting high-altitude destinations, but it’s no fun if you’re stuck in the hotel room suffering from altitude sickness. Following these steps can go a long way in preventing a dream vacation from turning into a health nightmare.

About the Author

More than 15 years ago, Karon Warren left a senior editor position with a regional bridal magazine to embark on a full-time writing career. Since that time, she has covered weddings, homes, travel and more. Warren earned her Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Southern Mississippi.