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Altitude sickness

Altitude sickness

Condition Explained

Altitude sickness occurs when you move to a higher altitude too quickly, this is due to the change in oxygen levels and air pressure. You feel unwell if your body has difficulty adjusting to lower oxygen levels.

Altitude sickness tends to occur when you when you are above 2500 meters above sea level, you are more likely to get symptoms if you do not give your body time to acclimatise.


Symptoms of altitude sickness usually start 6 to 10 hours after being at a high altitude.

The main symptoms include:

  • a headache

  • loss of appetite

  • feeling or being sick

  • feeling tired or exhausted

  • dizziness

  • difficulty sleeping

Sometimes, the symptoms can develop into more serious symptoms that can be life-threatening.

What to do if you get altitude sickness

If you're at a high altitude and have symptoms of altitude sickness or feel unwell:

  • rest at the same altitude until you feel better – do not travel or climb to a higher altitude

  • you can take anti-sickness medicine or painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol to ease symptoms

Symptoms of altitude sickness usually get better in 1 to 3 days.

If your symptoms have gone and you feel better, you can travel or climb to a higher altitude.


Treatment for altitude sickness

Altitude sickness usually gets better without treatment if you rest.

If your symptoms are more serious, you may be given:

  • steroid medicine

  • medicine to lower your blood pressure

  • oxygen through a mask

Rarely, you may need to be treated with oxygen in a special air-tight chamber (hyperbaric chamber) to increase the level of oxygen in your blood.

Medication: Acetazolamide 250mg Tablets

This medication belongs to a group of medicines known as carbonic anhydrase inhibitors. It prevents and reduces symptoms of light to moderate symptoms of altitude sickness.

We are only able to supply this treatment to people aged 18 and over.

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