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Different Kinds of Altitude Sickness & How Can One Acclimatize at Higher Altitude?

What Are The Different Kinds Of Altitude Sickness?

The main types of altitude sickness are acute mountain sickness (AMS) and High-Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE). Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is the mildest, and also the most common form of altitude sickness, which often afflicts high-altitude skiers, hikers, and travellers visiting high elevation destinations. The symptoms for acute mountain sickness are dizziness, headache, insomnia, loss of appetite and fatigue. Rarely, acute mountain sickness (AMS) at times can develop into high-altitude cerebral edema, a condition in which the brain swells with fluid to cause severe impairment. If the swelling is not treated in time, it can lead to fatality due to brain herniation within 48 hours. The initial symptoms of High-Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) include confusion, rapid heartbeat, an altered mental state and even loss of consciousness. This extreme form of altitude sickness is caused due to low oxygen which affects the brain. High-Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) is estimated to affect about 1% of people who travel to places at 13,000 feet or more above sea level.

What Are The Different Kinds Of Altitude Sickness?

What is Acute Mountain Sickness?

Acute mountain sickness is a common problem which people visiting places at high altitude complain about. Acute mountain sickness consists of discomforting symptoms like nausea, difficulty in breathing, headache, lightheadedness and fatigue, are often experienced by these people. These problems are mainly caused because the air becomes thin at higher altitude and there is lesser amount of oxygen in the air. Mountain sickness mostly occurs at an altitude above 8000 feet, but it can also occur at an elevation as low as 5000 feet above sea level. Although, everyone travelling to high altitude does not experience mountain sickness, but about 25% percent of them can feel this discomfort. To know more about Acute Mountain Sickness and to learn about the 11 Natural Ways To Acclimatize to High Altitude, go through the following piece of read.

What is the Physiology Behind Acute Mountain Sickness?

At high altitudes, the atmospheric pressure falls, the air becomes thin, and the amount of oxygen in the air also drops considerably. The faster a person climbs up, the greater is their risk for mountain sickness. So, it is always necessary to get acclimatized before reaching high altitude areas to prevent mountain sickness. Acclimatization is the process through which a person adjusts their body with the surrounding environment and helps them perform normally in such environment. When one breathes on high altitudes, their body receives less amount of oxygen. The body responds to this condition by breathing at a faster rate. This is termed as breathlessness. Breathing rapidly increases concentration of carbon dioxide in the blood, which in turn causes the pH level in the blood to rise, making it more alkaline. To remove the alkalinity and maintain the acidic balance, the individual would need to urinate more. At the same time, the haemoglobin also gets concentrated for saturating more oxygen. So, the heart also has to increase its pressure since the blood has become thick. This leads to a slight rise in blood pressure. If a person gets acclimatized, as they reach higher altitude, all these problems can be minimized.

How Can One Acclimatize At Higher Altitude?

Prevent acute mountain sickness by following these 11 natural ways to acclimatize to high altitude. To manage acute mountain sickness and enjoy their trip to the mountains a lot more, a high altitude traveller should:

#1. Take Plenty of Rest: Just relax on the first day after reaching the high altitude area. This is the initial step towards acclimatizing to high altitude.

#2. Drink Plenty Of Water: Drink plenty of water and stay well hydrated. To know if they are well hydrated or not, the person should check the colour of your urine. The urine is clear when the body is well hydrated. Keeping yourself hydrated is an easy and natural way to acclimatize to high altitude.

#3. Consume Garlic: Consume hot garlic soup and raw garlic as these can effectively improve blood circulation and prevent nausea and other symptoms of mountain sickness.

#4. Eat Carbohydrate Rich Foods: High altitude travellers should consume more carbohydrate rich foods to acclimatize better to high altitude and to prevent acute mountain sickness.

#5. Avoid Tea & Coffee: Avoid drinking excessive tea and coffee to prevent acute mountain sickness and to acclimatize to high altitude naturally.

#6. Avoid Alcohol: Avoid consuming alcohol, as it can increase the risk of dehydration, lower the respiratory rate, and also worsen any existing symptoms of mountain sickness.

#7. Stop Smoking: Quit smoking as it can worsen the symptoms of acute mountain sickness and disturb the process of acclimatization.

#8. Progress Gradually: Ascend gradually to higher altitude from one level to another. Experts generally recommend spending 1 day relaxing at intermediate level and then ascending upwards at an average rate of 1000 feet per day to naturally acclimatize to high altitude. People who are hiking, climbing or driving can use this acclimatization technique. But ones reaching such altitude directly by airway need to relax for 2 days since they are more likely to experience the problem of mountain sickness.

#9. Wear Warm Clothes: Always keep your forehead, finger, ears and toes covered with woollen clothes for better acclimatization to high altitude.

#10. Don’t Overdo It: Not exert too much, but go slow when on a high altitude to adapt yourself slowly to high altitude.

#11. Get Plenty Of Sleep: Get proper sleep on the day on which you relax. This will help your body prepare for the next day. Sleep is another natural way to prepare your body to acclimatize to high altitude.


  1. American Journal of Medicine:
    Article: “Acute Mountain Sickness: Pathophysiology, Prevention, and Treatment.”
    DOI: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2019.03.004
  2. Wilderness & Environmental Medicine:
    Article: “High-Altitude Cerebral Edema: Pathophysiology, Prevention, and Treatment.”
    DOI: 10.1016/j.wem.2019.04.007
  3. High Altitude Medicine & Biology:
    Article: “Prevention and Treatment of High Altitude Illness.”
    DOI: 10.1089/ham.2022.0015
  4. The New England Journal of Medicine:
    Article: “High-Altitude Illness.”
    DOI: 10.1056/NEJMra030088

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 8, 2023

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