Explore Articles

Preventing Altitude Sickness

Preventing Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness can quickly turn an exciting alpine hike into a race for health.

Mountains The views from summits such as Mt. Holy Cross in Colorado are amazing, but there are certain precautions and preparations you must make before heading to high altitudes. (CFI)

What is Altitude Sickness or Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)?

Be aware of symptoms that will require you to act quickly. Altitude sickness, or Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), is brought on by a lack of oxygen and a failure to acclimate to an environment with less oxygen. Symptoms of AMS include persistent headache along with difficulty sleeping, dizziness, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting. AMS can affect anyone.

Learn more about AMS and how it can turn into a deadly condition if symptoms are ignored.

Who is Affected by AMS?

Age, gender, physical condition or previous high-altitude experience has no bearing on whether a person will be affected. If you experience more than mild discomfort from AMS, you should descend immediately. AMS symptoms will worsen if you continue to ascend and may impair judgment. Your group’s safety depends on everyone making good decisions on the mountain.

Play it Safe at High Elevations

Lightning and heat will also threaten the safety of an alpine hike. Please visit our safety article Quickly Changing Weather to learn more about the warning signs and tips for staying safe.

How Can I Lessen the Risk of AMS?

  • Drink plenty of water; replenishing fluids helps to stabilize your body.
  • Stay well-nourished and hydrated by eating healthy foods and drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Take it easy and do not over exert yourself.
  • Be aware of warning signs that you may be affected by the altitude and let someone know.
  • Remember, anyone can be affected by AMS, even top athletes.