woman standing while hiking and staring at mountains

Symptoms For Altitude Sickness Explained

So you're going to be climbing a mountain? Maybe you're finally checking off that high-altitude travel destination? Either way, safety comes first, and in these scenarios there's one important thing to consider: altitude sickness.

Essential Takeaways
  • Altitude sickness can be serious, but it’s also preventable.
  • Staying hydrated is key (so why not turn any beverage into an electrolyte drink?!).
  • Preventing altitude sickness includes rest, gradual ascent, and sun protection. Medical advice is necessary if symptoms persist.   

Altitude sickness can quickly become a serious health concern, so it's important to understand what it is and how to prevent it. This condition occurs when your body changes altitudes without having enough time to adjust and acclimate. Also referred to as "mountain sickness," altitude sickness is fairly common in those that regularly adventure and change elevations quickly.

    Let's dive into more information about altitude sickness, what causes it, and how to prevent it next time you hit the trail.

    Understanding Altitude Sickness: Causes, Symptoms, and Risks

    As we mentioned previously, altitude sickness occurs when the body changes elevation without being able to acclimate appropriately. But why exactly is this? Altitude sickness is your body’s response to needing to rapidly adjust to lower air pressure and oxygen.

    Altitude sickness symptom severity can vary, as some individuals have mild symptoms while others have more complex implications. In most cases, symptoms can be resolved by returning to a normal elevation. 

    While it is possible to reduce altitude sickness symptoms, they don’t even have to occur in the first place! Learning how to prevent altitude sickness could save your health during your next adventure.

    Many people describe altitude sickness as feeling nauseous and/or lightheaded. Because of this, some people pass off their symptoms and don’t take them seriously. This could lead to worsened health effects, so it’s important to be able to recognize symptoms (hint: you’ve come to the right place).

    Anyone can get altitude sickness. Regardless of age, gender, or overall health, you could develop this condition. Because of that, it's important to identify the early warning signs and know how to respond appropriately. Hint: hydration is key!

    man holding a bottle of water with mountains in the background

    How to Identify Early Warning Signs for Altitude Sickness

    Identifying the early warning signs of altitude sickness means you'll be able to respond quickly. Symptoms can worsen the longer you're at a higher altitude, so it's best to make sure you decrease elevation as soon as possible. However, the only way you'll know to do this is if you can identify the symptoms associated with altitude sickness. So… What exactly are the symptoms you need to watch out for?

    Common symptoms of altitude sickness include:

    • Nausea
    • Headache
    • Dizziness
    • Shortness of breath
    • Fatigue
    • Loss of appetite

    While these symptoms are certainly not exclusive to altitude sickness, they are a warning sign that something is going on. If you're on a hike and experiencing these symptoms, it's best to stop immediately and assess how you're doing.

    If you’re beginning to experience the symptoms of altitude sickness, ask yourself the following questions:

    • How much water have you consumed today? Was it infused with electrolytes?
    • Have you been eating foods that will fuel your body instead of dehydrating it?
    • Are you giving yourself enough time to rest as you ascend?

    Keeping an eye on your health (and hydration!) is always important when watching out for potential concerning symptoms, but it's especially essential when going to a heightened elevation. By watching out for the previously mentioned signs, as well as staying hydrated and taking time to rest, you can be sure that you're remaining aware and doing everything you can to maintain your wellness.

    How to Adapt to High-Altitude Environments

    Altitude sickness can be overwhelming, but it's also preventable. Following proper acclimatization guidelines is the best way to ensure that you're preventing altitude sickness and managing any symptoms that may present themselves.

    Let’s go over some tips that you can use to adapt to high-altitude environments.

    Rest, rest rest!

    Resting is essential when it comes to changing altitudes. Because of the lower oxygen levels, your body must work harder to complete basic functions. This means that rest becomes even more important.

    If you know that you will be changing elevations rapidly, it's vital to make sure that you give yourself enough time to rest. Remember, safety is key!

    What’s in your cup?

    What's in your cup is just as important as what's not. Yep, you read that right.

    Staying away from alcohol and caffeine are good ways to make sure that you’re not depleting your body’s natural water stores. While it may be tempting to drink a few cups of coffee before your big hike, that decision may come back to haunt you (or at least your future empty water bottle).  

    What’s not in your cup is important, but what exactly should be in your cup? Electrolytes, electrolytes, electrolytes. Staying hydrated is key in making sure your body has the resources it needs to succeed and carry you through to your destination. Drinking enough water isn’t an option - it’s a necessity!

    If you’re noticing the beginning signs of altitude sickness, then it’s time to pull out your water bottle and make sure it’s filled with electrolytes. Making sure that you get electrolytes fast is important, which is one of the reasons why we’re on a mission to make sure you have the nutrients you need and can get them in an accessible way (like our drops!).

    Getting some rays?

    As you get closer to the sun, you’re exposed to more and more potentially damaging sun rays. Making sure that you have enough cover and shade is important so that your body can regulate its temperature properly and your skin is protected.

    Treatment Options for Altitude Sickness

    If you're preparing to change altitudes, then it's important that you're aware of the treatment options that exist for mountain sickness. Following the advice below can be a good way to ensure that you're reducing symptoms as soon as possible so you can get back to having fun.


    We've already discussed the importance of rest in preventing altitude sickness, but it can also be a magic cure when you're experiencing this condition. Giving yourself enough time to relax means that your body can adjust faster. Never underestimate the importance of getting off your feet and giving your body a chance to catch up!


    We’ll admit it… We’re big fans of hydration.

    While hydration is always important, it becomes even more essential when struggling with altitude sickness. Drinking water is a great first step, but sometimes you need to take it a step further. When you want to do that, consider our hydration drops that can turn any drink into an electrolyte win. Not only do our drops provide mineral support and increase nutrient absorption, but they can also soothe headaches. 

    When it comes to preventing altitude sickness or dealing with its symptoms, then getting electrolytes fast is important - and our drops are the perfect way to do that.

    woman squeezing buoy drops into the bottle
    Learn More About Buoy



    When it comes to dealing with altitude sickness, there are a few different medication options you can consider. For some, medication is effective. For others, it causes a variety of side effects that cancel out the benefits.

    If you’re looking for a natural option, then hydration + electrolytes is the answer. However, if you’re wanting to use traditional pharmaceutical options, then there are a few things to keep in mind.

    Choosing the right medication for your situation will most likely depend on the symptoms that you're experiencing. If you have a headache, consider trying ibuprofen. However, if you're dealing more with nausea, promethazine might be the right choice.

    If you want to prevent altitude sickness or treat generalized symptoms, the NHS recommends acetazolamide. This medication can speed up acclimation, reducing the multi-day adjustment period to just one day. 

    Severe Cases

    While medication can be a powerful tool for combating altitude sickness, there are some severe cases in which it may not help. In this scenario, it’s best to head back to a lower altitude and seek medical attention as soon as possible.

    Prevention is Key: Preparing for High-Altitude Environments

    Preventing altitude sickness is entirely possible. Making sure you're properly hydrated with an electrolyte-infused drink (preferably one without loads of sugars and sweeteners) is one of the best things you can do to set yourself up for success. 

    It’s recommended that you drink electrolyte water for a few days before your big adventure. At Buoy, we’ve made it easy to add electrolytes into the drinks that are already in your diet, so don’t wait to add some of our drops to your shopping cart.

    Another important thing to consider is your level of activity before you ascend. It's recommended to avoid strenuous activity for a couple of days before you change altitudes. This is a great way to ensure your body and its wellness are in tip-top shape.

    When preventing altitude sickness, one of the most important things you can do is ascend gradually. This will ensure your body has enough time to adjust to the changing atmosphere.

    Seeking Professional Help: When to Consult a Healthcare Provider

    Altitude sickness can sometimes be difficult to cope with. If you’ve ever experienced this condition, you may be wondering when you should consult a healthcare professional.

    In general, there are two main situations in which you should seek medical help: you have a pre-existing health condition or your symptoms aren’t improving with self-care measures.

    If you have a pre-existing health condition and know that you will be rapidly changing elevations, consider speaking with your doctor about ways to minimize risk. It'll likely be important that you stay hydrated, rest when needed, and give yourself enough time to acclimate. By planning ahead, you can protect your health and make sure that you're not triggering any potential medical concerns.

    The second group of people who should seek medical attention are those whose symptoms aren’t resolving themselves. This can be a difficult distinction to make, as it can be challenging to know how quickly symptoms should end and at what point your symptoms become concerning.

    In most cases, symptoms should resolve within 24 hours. If you've hit the 24-hour mark and your symptoms are still present, then it's most likely time to reach out to a doctor. They'll be able to provide you with individualized advice and make sure that you're on the right track. If it's been a day and your symptoms are beginning to improve, especially with the use of medication and hydration, then you may not need to seek immediate medical attention.

    In most cases, it’s best to reach out to a medical professional if you’ve got concerns about your health. Being cautious is important, especially when it comes to altitude sickness and your health, so don’t hesitate to get expert advice.  

    Altitude sickness can be a thing of the past

    Are you planning an outdoor adventure and wanting to avoid altitude sickness? Whether you’re hiking up a mountain, paddling down a river, or just basking in the sun, you’ll need to stay hydrated. If you’re ready to prioritize your wellness and make sure that you’re staying hydrated, our products are what you’ve been looking for.       

    At Buoy, we’re passionate about creating electrolyte options that improve hydration and are simple to add into your routine. If you’re not sure which product is right for you, why not start with the Daily Wellness Bundle? This kit is a great way to get comprehensive benefits and avoid altitude sickness, plus it detoxes the body and can boost cognition! 


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