5 Tips To Prevent Altitude Sickness While Traveling

Top Things to Do in Manitou Springs in 24 hours: Little Lakes Formed from Glaciers are so pretty! Also, up here I'm starting to feel a little altitude sickness which is why my hands are so awkwardly positioned but I've come up with a list of tips to prevent altitude sickness while traveling which have helped so much.Oh goodness, here they come – queasiness, nausea, lightheadedness creeping together slowly, transforming into one screaming body of altitude sickness (hmmm…this premise actually has the makings of a great horror movie. Hitchcock, are you reading?)

The first time I traveled through the backroads of Colorado, I had a steady thump in my head. It wasn’t a large noticeable thump, but rather a small, metered thump like a five-year-old trying to beat drums to the precise tick of a metronome. Almost in sync, but not quite there. For me, this was the first warning sign of altitude sickness.

Altitude sickness (or AMS – Acute Mountain Sickness) is a common occurrence for travelers scaling large heights in a short amount of time. You aren’t likely to get it from flights because airplanes have pretty controlled oxygen levels (it is possible albeit rare). But you are likely to get it while hiking (or climbing or driving) more than 8,000 feet in elevation.

I hate AMS (as you can already tell) so I have gathered my natural altitude sickness remedies and lassoed them into a list. Note, these tips work for me and they may not necessarily work for you. Everyone is different. If you are feeling really sick, please visit a doctor immediately. Also, if you have any disease that affects red blood cells, I would not recommend traveling without letting your doctor know beforehand and asking for a prescribed medication.

Mini side-ramble aside, here are 5 tips to prevent altitude sickness while traveling to Colorado (or any other mountainous region):

Avoid Getting High

No, I don’t mean this in the typical Colorado sense of getting high (though try to avoid that too).

I’m a Texas girl so I was absolutely unprepared to sleep 12,000 feet above sea level. Large towns nestled within the mountains can be strenuous for unaccustomed lungs so be sure to research how far the city is located above sea-level.

If your hotel of choice is over 8,000 feet, find another hotel (at least the first day of your trip), somewhere between 1/4th to 3/4ths your final destination city’s elevation (ideally at half the height). I like using this resource to find out the elevations of most cities in Colorado.

Drink Chamomile Tea

Guide to Canyon Road: Tea House Mango Tea. Herbal Tea (like the one pictured which is too green for my taste) is also one of the best ways to prevent altitude sickness while traveling.

Mango Tea from Canyon Road in Santa Fe. On a totally unrelated side note, if you ever get the chance to visit, The Tea House in Santa Fe has the best selection of teas I have ever seen in my life.

Okay, I’m a little biased here. Chamomile tea is my favorite kind of tea (that’s a lie, cardamon is, but Chamomile is my favorite herbal tea). Herbal teas typically don’t contain caffeine which is a substance you should avoid during high-altitude situations (avoid alcohol as well).

Now, you can just drink loads of water and that should work fine. I’m just not a fan of plain tepid water (something about the visualization is very unappetizing to me) which is why I’m a proponent of spicing up the flavor.

Apply Chapstick

Your lips will feel flaky at high altitudes. Using UV-protection chapstick or just regular chapstick does wonders for smoothing out the lips so they feel less dry. 

Speaking of UV-protection chapstick…loads of sunscreen is a must. According to AMC Outdoor Magazine, “UV exposure increases by roughly 10% every 1,000 feet of elevation.” If you are planning to drive up Pikes Peak in Manitou Springs or hike any other fourteener, those numbers sum up to a sunscreen necessity. The magazine even goes on to state that “snow reflects up to 80% of UV radiation.” Simply put, you are battling almost double normal UV exposure.

I’ll admit, I’ve always been scared about sunscreen causing skin cancer as some sources claim it can be linked to melanoma. Others claim the evidence is just a myth and can’t be justified. I like all-natural products anyway so I think I’ll just continue with my usual purchases to be on the safe side.

My favorite is Beauty By The Earth Sunscreen. The SPF is 25 which means you should reapply roughly every 3 hours. It doesn’t contain parabens or any toxic chemicals that could be associated with cancer. It is also environmentally-safe and biodegradable, which means the ingredients don’t negatively affect animal life. Win. Win. Win.

Don’t Engage In Exercise Immediately

There are fewer Oxygen molecules at high altitudes and working muscles require lots of Oxygen. During your transition period, just sit in the lodge, prop your feet up, and relax. Don’t worry about your workout routine for the day.

But don’t take the “exercise…I thought you said extra fries?” mentality. Exercise is good for you (says the hypocritical girl who should go to the gym more often). Here are two yoga poses that help with blood circulation:

  1. Downward Dog (easy)
  2. Camel Pose (a little harder but still fairly easy)

If you have a hike scheduled. Start from a very low elevation and slowly work your way up. In mountain regions, hikes are a tortoise’s race, not the hare’s.

Eat Foods That Are Oxygen-Rich

Goa Inspired Mango Smoothie Bowl. Also with the mango and papaya, this oxygen-rich recipe is full of healthy ingredients. In fact one serving could help prevent altitude sickness while traveling in a safe, natural and tasty way.Oxygen-rich foods (like carbs, greens, citrus) will help you adapt to the high altitude more easily. 

So try making a spinach-avocado toast or mixing together a warm glass of lemonade. My personal favorite? This Goa-inspired mango smoothie bowl recipe which is chalk-full of Oxygen-rich ingredients.

Whew! I feel a lot better now. Time to hit the slopes. Oh, but the resort is serving hot chocolate right now…

Did you find this list of tips to prevent altitude sickness while traveling to Colorado useful? Let me know in the comments below and list your favorite tips.

Disclaimer: Some links in this post are affiliate links which means that I make a very trivial amount of money when you purchase an item on this page (at absolutely no extra cost to you, by the way). 

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20 Comments

  • Reply
    Jenna Colgrove
    November 20, 2017 at 1:49 PM

    this is genius!! i always struggle with this!

    • Reply
      anshula.varma
      November 22, 2017 at 4:47 AM

      Thanks, Jenna!

  • Reply
    Melissa | Bubby and Bean
    November 20, 2017 at 3:46 PM

    These are great tips! I used to live at 10,000+ feet in Colorado and was fine; now whenever I go back I can feel the altitude. Drinking water helps me the most.

    • Reply
      anshula.varma
      November 22, 2017 at 4:50 AM

      Thanks, Melissa! Drinking water absolutely helps! I couldn’t imagine living at 10,000 feet above sea-level though (I’m a beach-girl but I guess after a while, you get used to the altitude). Hope you have a fabulous day! xx – Anshula

  • Reply
    Ashley DTKAustin
    November 20, 2017 at 4:33 PM

    This is such a great and informative post. Definitely saving this for later! I used to go to Colorado a few times a year and never had this issue until I got older!

    • Reply
      anshula.varma
      November 22, 2017 at 4:51 AM

      Thank you so much, Ashley! I hope these tips help when you revisit. Happy travels! xx – Anshula

  • Reply
    Sabrina Tan
    November 20, 2017 at 6:15 PM

    Love these tips!

    • Reply
      anshula.varma
      November 22, 2017 at 4:51 AM

      Thanks, Sabrina!

  • Reply
    Patty
    November 20, 2017 at 7:53 PM

    Thank you for these tips because I struggle with these!

    • Reply
      anshula.varma
      November 22, 2017 at 4:52 AM

      I truly hope they help, Patty! Wishing you a fantastic day! xx – Anshula

  • Reply
    Nicky
    November 20, 2017 at 9:05 PM

    Thanks for sharing all the tips! Will bear it in mind!
    Nicky x

    • Reply
      anshula.varma
      November 22, 2017 at 4:53 AM

      Hope they help, Nicky! xx – Anshula

  • Reply
    KatWalkSF
    November 20, 2017 at 9:20 PM

    Using this for my trip to Tahoe!

    • Reply
      anshula.varma
      November 22, 2017 at 4:56 AM

      Thank you! Lake Tahoe is 6,000 feet above ground so just be sure to drink loads of water 😉 I’m sure your trip will be absolutely fabulous! Happy travels! xx – Anshula

  • Reply
    Brittney
    November 20, 2017 at 10:19 PM

    Yess! I always load up on vitamins before traveling!


    Brittney
    Missxbo.com

    • Reply
      anshula.varma
      November 22, 2017 at 4:59 AM

      Yes! That is one of my favourite tips! Happy travels! xx – Anshula

  • Reply
    cocorosa
    November 21, 2017 at 12:11 AM

    This is such a great list with tips, I had no idea about the foods! xoxo

    • Reply
      anshula.varma
      November 22, 2017 at 5:01 AM

      Thank you so much! Oxygen-rich foods are super helpful for dealing with AMS! xx – Anshula

  • Reply
    Karlee
    November 21, 2017 at 4:52 AM

    I feel like I was having trouble breathing while reading about this haha! I really like the idea of starting off slow and gradually working into especially the first day and with the sleeping arrangements I wouldn’t have thought to look for hotels within a certain sea level of where I came from!

    • Reply
      anshula.varma
      November 22, 2017 at 5:04 AM

      Oh, dear (I’ll work on hazier descriptions next time 😉) . Going about it gradually is perfect for first-time high-altitude travelers (I sincerely wish I had done that on my first mountain escapade but I guess we all learn from our mistakes). I’m so glad that you liked the tips, Karlee! Happy travels! xx – Anshula

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