Share this Story

Acute mountain sickness: Effects of high altitude

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Going up?

If part of your summer recreational plans include camping and taking your family on gorgeous hikes up mountains you couldn’t access in the winter, be aware that high altitudes can cause altitude sickness, also called acute mountain sickness. Though most people will not be negatively affected by high altitude, some may experience potentially fatal conditions such as high altitude pulmonary edema or high altitude cerebral edema.

Going up?

If you aren't used to higher altitudes, you may experience:

Shortness of breath
Nausea and dizziness
Loss of appetite
Sleep disturbances


Though altitude sickness tends to occur at elevations over 7,000 feet due to the decreased oxygen saturation of the blood, fast ascent or particularly strenuous activity can cause altitude sickness at lower elevations. The symptoms usually start 12 to 24 hours after arriving at higher altitudes and decrease over the course of the course of the next couple of days as the body acclimatizes.


The best way to avoid altitude sickness or the negative effects of higher altitude is to take the time to allow your body to get used to the change in barometric pressure. If you are camping, don't set out to do vigorous activity for the first day or two. If you are hiking, start slow and listen to your body as you climb. If you begin to experience symptoms of altitude sickness, slow down or stop, and, if necessary, descend slowly from the mountain.


If anyone in your family begins to experience more severe symptoms, such as nosebleeds, loss of consciousness, loss of bladder and colon control, coordination problems, coughing up bloody sputum, or swelling of the face, hands and limbs, seek medical help immediately.


New in Parenting

And you'll see personalized content just for you whenever you click the My Feed .

SheKnows is making some changes!

b h e a r d !

Welcome to the new SheKnows Community,

where you can share your stories, ideas

and CONNECT with millions of women.

Get Started