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Mountain Sickness


Mountain sickness, or high altitude sickness, is a condition that can happen when you travel to high altitudes. It is caused by the decrease in oxygen at higher altitudes. When there is less oxygen in the air, your body cannot get enough to function properly.



  • Carbonic anhydrase inhibitor: This medicine helps you adjust to the higher altitude more quickly.
  • Acetaminophen: This medicine will help relieve your headache. You can buy acetaminophen without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs: These medicines decrease swelling and pain. You can buy NSAIDs without a doctor's order. Ask which medicine is right for you and how much to take. Take as directed. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems if not taken correctly.
  • Antinausea medicine: This medicine helps calm your stomach and help prevent vomiting.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him of her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Move to a lower altitude:

This usually relieves your symptoms.


Allow your body time to adjust to the decreased oxygen level at the higher altitude.

Prevent mountain sickness:

  • Travel slowly: Travel at a maximum rate of 1968 feet (600 meters) in altitude each day. Do not travel up more than 984 feet (300 meters) each day when you are above 9842 feet (300 meters). Pregnant women should not travel higher than 11,482 feet (3500 meters).
  • Sleep at lower altitudes: After you spend time during the day at higher altitudes, sleep at lower altitudes at night. This will help your body adjust to the decreased oxygen level. Once you are used to the higher altitude, you can spend the night there. Repeat this process as needed to travel to higher altitudes.
  • Do not exercise for the first 3 days at higher altitude: Exercise may increase your risk for mountain sickness.
  • Do not drink alcohol, smoke, or take sedatives at higher altitude: These make it harder for your body to adjust to the altitude.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • Your symptoms do not improve after you go down to a lower altitude.
  • You have a new cough.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You have trouble walking.
  • Your lips, nails, or skin are blue.
  • You wheeze or cough up pink, foamy spit.
  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You have chest pain or you feel a flutter in your chest.
  • You are confused or more tired than usual.
  • You have a seizure.

Ā© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotesĀ® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Mountain Sickness (Aftercare Instructions)

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Further information

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