Hiking, skiing and biking at high altitude are popular mountainous sports activity today. However, some people may get tired faster in high altitudes. This happens usually because of reduced oxygen at higher altitudes. With less oxygen to breathe, many people easily get tired and may experience altitude sickness.

People who have suffered from altitude sickness previously will experience onset at less than 14,000 feet or above. They will usually experience the symptoms of altitude sickness between 6300 to 9700 feet. Symptoms of altitude sickness can be mild or severe, but in some cases the symptoms can prove to fatal.

Why do You Get Tired Faster in High Altitudes ?

Who Can Get Tired Faster in High Altitudes?

Although any one can get tired after running or climbing, particularly at higher altitudes, some people may be at greater risk. People with previous history of altitude sickness are more likely to experience the symptoms when they climb high altitude mountains. Moreover, people who climb higher altitude quickly and without rest during their first few days of altitude exposure are also likely to get tired faster. Sometimes, people living in low elevation areas prior to climbing may experience altitude sickness and may get tired faster in high altitudes.

Obesity is considered to be a major risk factor increasing the risk of altitude sickness in people. Genetics, too in some cases, may put a person at greater risk of developing high altitude problems or pulmonary edema.

The symptoms of getting tired faster at high altitude should not be taken easily or ignored because it may prove to be fatal illness.

Why do You Get Tired Faster in High Altitudes?

There are in fact a variety of reasons of why you get tired faster or feel fatigued when you are at higher altitude. The most common reason is the reduced oxygen level in air at higher altitudes. Your body is challenged to preserve sufficient energy with lower air pressure and oxygen concentration at higher altitude. The reduced level of oxygen usually makes your cells and muscles to starve for oxygen and this may make you tired faster. Since there is less oxygen and air pressure available at higher altitude, it is difficult to maintain the energy level and as a result the person gets tired faster after a climb.

Low level of oxygen also reduces appetite and your body's ability to absorb food. At higher altitude, with lesser oxygen, climbers usually experience suppressed appetite and the body becomes unable to absorb the required nutrients. These factors make you weak and tired as the energy is reduced.

In some people, respiratory illnesses like bronchitis and asthma may also be responsible for causing altitude sickness in climbers. People who drink alcohol or smoke may also get tired easily when they climb.

Symptoms of Getting Tired at High Altitude

The symptoms may develop gradually or immediately. Some of the common symptoms of getting tired faster at high altitude includes:

Some of the serious symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Chest tightness
  • Skin discoloration
  • Coughing up bloody mucus
  • Decreased consciousness
  • Shortness of breath while resting

How to Prevent Getting Tired Faster in High Altitudes?

Gradual changes in the altitude will help the body to get accustomed to low oxygen environment, which can significantly reduce the chance of altitude sickness symptoms. You can adapt at diverse rates, but few guidelines for climbing above 10,000 feet are helpful for climbers.

  • Don't increase your altitude more than 1000 feet per night
  • Try to increase the altitude only by 3000 feet every night
  • Try to restrict your physical exertion at recommended levels in your first few days of climbing
  • Drink water excessively in your altitude exposure
  • If you notice any symptoms of altitude sickness, you need to stop ascending further or the symptoms will get worse

If you have experienced the symptoms of high altitude earlier, and you are planning to go for climbing again or if you have any serious medical ailments, it is necessary to seek medical opinion first. It is also essential to take your regular medications, if any and other necessary medications to prevent the symptoms while climbing.

How to Treat the Condition of Getting Tired Faster in High Altitudes?

The very first rule to treat the tiredness and fatigue experienced at higher altitude is to stop ascending until the symptoms alleviate on its own. People who experience mild symptoms along with tiredness and fatigue at higher altitude can treat the condition easily by staying at the current altitude and reducing the activities for few days. The symptoms of mild altitude sickness can be treated with rest and pain relievers.

But, if the symptoms are moderate or serious, then you are required to descend down to lower altitude to get accustomed with the atmospheric conditions and air pressure. You are requested not to climb further until the symptoms alleviate. Anyone experiencing serious symptoms of high altitude like cerebral edema, blurred vision and high altitude pulmonary edema may descend immediately to lower altitude, even at the middle of the night. If the person continues to move higher, the symptoms can get worse and the condition may become fatal and life threatening.

Medical help may be required in most cases and it is advisable to follow medical advice. Medications may be prescribed to speed up the recovery, regain the balance and stimulate breathing. Oxygen therapy may be prescribed as required.

Another important part to treat tiredness in high altitudes is to avoid alcohol consumption, narcotic pain medication and sleeping pills. People who have the symptoms of altitude sickness or get tired faster at higher altitude must seek medical advice before taking any other medications and avoid alcohol. Alcohol, sleep inducing substances and other abuse drugs may be responsible for lowering your breathing at higher altitude, which can make you tired after climbing few feet.

Liquids and water in excessive quantity is recommended to help your body stay hydrated. You must eat regularly to maintain the required strength and hydration. Try to include food items in your diet, which are rich in carbohydrate and also include oxygen therapy into your daily regime during your climbing to alleviate the symptoms.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: February 20, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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