altitude sickness while trekking in Nepal

Altitude Sickness While Trekking In Nepal

Many travelers and trekkers may be curious about whether they will experience altitude sickness while trekking in Nepal. Well, the answer can vary.

It is common for many trekkers to fall prey to altitude sickness during high-altitude treks to the Himalayas. However, with proper acclimatization and precautions, trekkers can minimize the risk. The symptoms of altitude sickness also vary from person to person. Its intensity can vary from mild to severe and, in some cases, even life-threatening.  

Underestimating altitude sickness can be fatal. Therefore, those looking to trek in high-altitude destinations such as the Everest Base Camp Trek, the Everest Three Passes Trek, the Annapurna Circuit, and the Manaslu Circuit must gather knowledge about altitude sickness and its symptoms. It helps them take proper precautions and minimize risk. 

In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about altitude sickness and its prevention. So make sure you read until the end!

What is altitude sickness? 

When you climb to a higher elevation above 2,500 meters above sea level, the oxygen level and air pressure in the atmosphere decrease. If your body cannot adjust to the changes, you will experience altitude sickness and its various symptoms. Not all trekkers will experience similar symptoms. 

Some trekkers’ bodies adjust to their surroundings, which minimizes the risk. However, proper precautions are necessary. Those with respiratory diseases are more prone to sickness, so anyone with health problems should consult health professionals before joining the high-altitude treks. 

There are three types of altitude sickness. They are as follows: 

Acute Moutain Sickness (AMS)

Acute Mountain Sickness is the most common type of altitude sickness, which occurs when the body cannot adjust to the decreasing oxygen level. The symptoms appear within a few hours of ascending to higher elevations. 

The symptoms of AMS include headache, nausea, loss of appetite, weakness, dizziness, insomnia, nosebleeds, swelling, shortness of breath, and rapid pulse. Although the symptoms are mild, you must not ignore them, as they can progress into severe symptoms.  

High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)

When AMS progresses, it can lead to a severe form of altitude sickness. High-altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) is one of the severe forms that occurs when fluids build up in the lungs due to a lack of oxygen in the body. Its symptoms usually develop within two to four days after ascending to higher regions, but in some cases, they can occur earlier. 

Its symptoms include extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, persistent dry cough, fever, insomnia, rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, chest tightness, and blue or grey tinge on lips or fingernails. HAPE requires immediate medical attention, and they must descend to a lower elevation. 

High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE)

Another severe form of altitude sickness is High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE), which is also the progression of AMS. Sometimes, those who suffer from HAPE may also develop HACE. When fluids build up in the brain due to lack of oxygen in the body, it results in HACE. Its symptoms usually start one to three days after ascending to higher elevations. 

The symptoms of HACE include severe headache, nausea, vomiting, disorientation, extreme tiredness, loss of coordination, hallucination, blurred vision, and psychotic behavior. Most of its symptoms are neurological. Therefore, HACE requires immediate medical attention, and patients must descend to lower altitudes immediately. 

Altitude Sickness Prevention 

Altitude sickness can easily scare off trekkers, but you can take various precautions to handle it. Some of these preventive measure include: 

Gradual ascension

One of the best ways to minimize the risk of altitude sickness is to ascend to higher altitude gradually. Most trekking destinations require you to trek 6 to 7 hours daily. It is physically demanding and makes it difficult to adjust to the changing surroundings. Therefore, trekkers should ascend gradually. Especially for beginners, it is best to ascend 100 meters in a day. It allows your body to adapt to the elevation and changing surroundings. 


While trekking to higher altitudes, it is crucial to add acclimatization days to your itinerary. This allows your body to adapt to the growing elevation, changing surroundings, and temperatures. Most trekkers take an acclimatization day in lower regions before ascending to higher ones. Experts recommend acclimatization at 2,500 meters for the initial phase. If you continue climbing higher, rest every third day. It helps to prevent altitude sickness significantly. 

Stay well-hydrated

It is crucial for trekkers to stay well-hydrated throughout their trek. Drink plenty of water, at least 4 to 5 liters a day, as dehydration can worsen the symptoms of altitude sickness. You can also drink soups and teas to keep your body hydrated. However, avoid caffeine and alcoholic beverages. Excessive intake of caffeine, chocolate drinks, and alcohol dehydrates your body and can disrupt your sleeping pattern. Keeping your body hydrated helps to prevent the symptoms of altitude sickness. 

Nutritious diet

During high-altitude treks, trekkers must eat a healthy and nutritious diet to energize their bodies. Climbing uphill on varied terrains is more challenging than it sounds and takes a lot of energy. As the trek takes a lot of energy, avoid doing heavy workouts. Thus, your diet must include high-carb and high-protein ingredients. It is best to avoid junk foods, dairy products, caffeine drinks, and alcoholic beverages during the trek.  

Take Medication

Medications like Acetazolamide and diamox can help manage the symptoms of altitude sickness and cope with them. However, they do not completely prevent it. These medications increase blood acidity, stimulate breathing, and ease the symptoms. Trekkers can take the medication at least a day or two before ascending to higher regions. Consult with your doctor before taking the medication. 

Treatment For Altitude Sickness While Trekking In Nepal

There are several ways to prevent altitude sickness, but what if you start experiencing it? Here are a few ways you can treat symptoms of altitude sickness: 

Rest immediately

If you start experiencing altitude-related sickness symptoms, stop and take some rest. It is the best way to catch your breath and give yourself some time to recover. The symptoms are your body’s way of telling you not to overexert yourself. Resting also helps your body better adjust to the changing surroundings. Similarly, it reduces the pressure on your respiratory system. Resting is the best way to treat altitude sickness and avoid its progression. 


Another way to treat altitude sickness is to hydrate yourself. Drinking lots of water and fluid helps to increase the respiratory rate. While water, teas, and garlic soups are best for your body, caffeine, chocolate drinks, and alcohol can cause dehydration. Hydrating your body is one of the best ways to tackle altitude sickness. Similarly, it helps your tissues and cells deliver oxygen throughout the body more efficiently and maintain blood volume. You can also eat hydrating foods like fruits and vegetables. 


There are various medications you can use to treat altitude sickness. Some of the most common ones are: 

  • Acetazolamide or Diamox
  • Ibuprofen or Asprin
  • Dexamethasone
  • Nifedipine
  • Ondansetron etc.

Descend to lower elevation

Despite all the treatments, if the altitude sickness symptoms persist, descend to a lower elevation. The oxygen level is higher in lower regions and helps to cure altitude-related sickness. Similarly, it relieves you from the symptoms and allows your body to recover. Keep monitoring your symptoms even after descending, and avoid ascending before you make a full recovery. 


Trekking in Nepal is an adventure that many people worldwide come to experience. However, depending on the destination, there are some risks of altitude sickness while trekking in Nepal. Luckily, with proper precautions, you can minimize or prevent the risk. ​

We hope you find our article informative about altitude sickness, its types, symptoms, prevention methods, and treatment. You can follow our tips to tackle it better and stay safe during your trekking in Nepal!     


Will I get altitude sickness in Nepal? 

If you are trekking above 2500 meters elevation, it is common for trekkers to experience altitude sickness. Decreased oxygen levels and air pressure in the atmosphere at higher elevations result in trekkers experiencing altitude sickness. So, if you are trekking to a higher area, there is a risk of altitude sickness.  

How can I prepare for a high-altitude trek? 

Before you consider taking any trek, assess your health and fitness level. If you have any health issues, consult with health professionals. Then, consult a trekking agency to curate the perfect itinerary with proper acclimatization and hire a licensed, experienced guide. Doing cardio exercises and training at least two months before the trek is also best.

What are the different types of altitude sickness? 

There are three types of altitude sickness. They are Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE). AMS is a common and mild form of altitude sickness. Meanwhile, HAPE and HACE are more severe forms and require immediate medical attention.  

How can I avoid altitude sickness? 

The best way to adjust to high altitudes is to ascend to higher elevations gradually and undergo proper acclimatization. It is also essential to stay well-hydrated and get enough rest and sleep. Avoid excessive caffeine, alcohol, and smoking tobacco. You must also refrain from doing heavy workouts at higher altitudes. 

Does Acetazolamide help to prevent altitude sickness?  

Acetazolamide can help you adjust to high altitudes and reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness. However, the medication cannot prevent it entirely. It helps to decrease headaches, nausea, dizziness, tiredness, and shortness of breath. The best way to prevent altitude-related sickness is to ascend to higher elevations gradually. 

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