Living below sea level alone can present challenges, but what about people who must live or travel to heights of eight thousand feet or above, who are not yet acclimated to that height. Exercise or a simple walk to the grocery store can be challenging, and produce symptoms of altitude sickness.
Feelings of a mild hangover or the flu are symptoms of altitude sickness one might experience. Most people also experience symptoms like headache, insomnia, weakness, poor appetite, nausea, and an all-over ill feeling. Shortness of breath is also present whenever you exert yourself. Headaches will also follow and is the most common complaint. Most headaches that are caused by altitude sickness will be throbbing and felt mainly in the front of the head. Waking up in the morning or exercising will aggravate the headache even more.
Another complaint of altitude sickness sufferers is the inability to sleep, even if extremely tired. A person’s hands, feet, and eyes may begin to swell as well. Nausea and vomiting are also ubiquitous in rigorous cases.
The main factor that causes altitude sickness is a lack of oxygen. At higher altitudes, the amount oxygen is considerably less. The muscles, lungs, heart, and nervous system are all affected. Altitude sickness is unpredictable, no one can predict whom or when someone will suffer with this condition. Athletes and people who are in good physical condition are not immune either.
However, there is some good news. Altitude sickness usually only lasts for about five days as your body begins to adapt to the change in altitude. As unpleasant as this ordeal may be, it is not life threatening.
Preventing altitude sickness
If you are hiking or climbing to high elevations, it would be wise to climb slowly. If the situation presents itself — rest for a day while giving your body time to adjust to elevations of seven-thousand to eight-thousand feet. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, do not climb further until they disappear or subside to where you can continue.
Drinking lots of water can help. At higher altitudes, you can lose fluids, which are vital in high dry places. Water intake does not stop or prevent altitude sickness, but it is helpful with the headaches.
It is recommended that you abstain from alcohol consumption. Alcohol increases loss of fluids through urination, which in turn promotes dehydration. It is also known that drinking alcohol lessens your breathing rate, thereby lowering blood oxygen.
No matter how tempted you are, do not take sleeping pills. Sleeping pills can also contribute to slowing your breathing. There are safer sleep aids than pills like, a hot shower, or a warm footbath if you are on a camping trip.
When to call a doctor for altitude sickness
If you are experiencing lack of coordination or stumbling gait, bad headache unrelieved by pain medication, severe nausea and vomiting, impaired judgment and confusion, shortness of breath at rest, coughing or gurgling sounds when breathing, and coughing of white or pink foamy sputum.
These are symptoms of serious conditions called cerebral edema (accumulation of fluid in the brain) and pulmonary edema (accumulation of fluid in the lungs). Both are very serious and life threatening, and should incur immediate medical assistance.
Altitude Sickness Herbs
Ginkgo – Improves the brains ability to tolerate low oxygen levels, inhibits brain swelling due to trauma or toxins, and inactivates damaging substances called free radicals. This herbs ability to prevent altitude sickness has been proven my much research.
Reishi – This Chinese remedy is known to improve blood oxygenation.
Herbs For Altitude Sickness
Ginseng – This herb is shown to improve respiratory function and blood oxygenation.
Siberian Ginseng – This herb helps to prevent altitude sickness according to research done in China.
Ginger – When one experiences altitude sickness, one of the symptoms includes nausea, ginger is the one to call for this occasion.