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Home / International Travel Insurance / Articles / Travel Tips / How to Manage and Prevent Altitude Sickness: Understanding Its Effects on the Human Body

How to Manage and Prevent Altitude Sickness: Understanding Its Effects on the Human Body

Team AckoMay 9, 2023

At different elevations, the human body is subjected to different levels of atmospheric pressure. This change in atmospheric pressure can result in a range of symptoms, collectively known as altitude sickness, which can affect anyone regardless of your state of physical fitness. Many people underestimate the serious effects of altitude on the human body and can experience life-threatening symptoms when they ascend too quickly - even in regions with low elevations. In this article, we’ll take a look at the 10 effects of altitude on the human body and describe how to prevent or treat altitude sickness in India.

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Contents

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1. Red Blood Cell Production Increase

The body requires a greater supply of oxygen when it is at a higher altitude than at a lower level. To counteract this, the number of red blood cells increases, and the amount of hemoglobin in each red blood cell is also increased. Red blood cells transport oxygen molecules to the other parts of the body. This process is known as acclimatization and takes between one to three weeks for the body to fully adjust.

2. Less Pressure on the Heart

At higher elevations, the air pressure is lower, so this causes a reduction in the amount of pressure that is put on the heart as it pumps oxygenated blood throughout the body. With less pressure, the heart does not have to work as hard to supply the body with oxygen, reducing the risk of heart strain and fatigue.

3. Reduced Oxygen Intake

At higher altitudes, the amount of oxygen in the air decreases dramatically. This is because the air is more scarce the higher up one goes. This makes it harder for the body to obtain oxygen and can result in physical exhaustion and fatigue. To counteract this effect, the body has to produce more red blood cells to bring oxygen to the muscles and other organs.

4. Dizziness and Nausea

One of the more common effects of altitude is dizziness and nausea. This is caused by the body’s inability to take in enough oxygen as well as other chemicals in the air. This can result in lightheadedness, shortness of breath and even vomiting.

5. Brain Swelling

At higher elevations, the brain swells due to reduced oxygen intake. This can be accompanied by symptoms such as headaches, confusion, loss of coordination and impaired judgment. This effect can be reversed by ascending slowly and allowing the body to properly acclimatize.

6. Increased Appetite

The body requires more energy to fuel its metabolic processes at higher elevations, resulting in an increase in appetite. Altering one’s diet to include high-energy foods can help prevent fatigue as well as ensure the proper functioning of bodily processes.

7. Respiratory Problems

At higher elevations, the air is thinner and breathing can become difficult. Shortness of breath, coughing, and tightness of the chest are all signs of this effect. To counteract this, one can try breathing exercises or consult a doctor to identify more appropriate treatments.

8. Dehydration

At higher altitudes, there is a greater rate of water loss due to the fact that the air is drier. This can result in dehydration, fatigue, and an increased risk of altitude sickness. Consuming more fluids, such as electrolyte-rich beverages and water, can help prevent this.

9. Insomnia

Altitude can significantly disrupt sleeping patterns. Many experience restlessness and difficulty sleeping as they ascend, due to the body’s inability to absorb enough oxygen as well as the higher risk of fatigue.

10. Hypoxia

At higher elevations, the air is much thinner, resulting in insufficient oxygen being supplied to the body. This can result in hypoxia, a condition in which the body is starved of oxygen. This can lead to lightheadedness, nausea, confusion, and fatigue.

Conclusion

Altitude can have a serious effect on the human body, regardless of the elevation. When ascending to higher altitudes, it is important to take precautions and make sure the body has time to acclimatize. Care must be taken to ensure proper hydration, diet, and rest to prevent extreme fatigue and other conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some commonly asked questions answered regarding managing and preventing altitude sickness and understanding its effects on the human body.

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What is Altitude Sickness?

Altitude sickness is a collection of symptoms that can occur when ascending to higher elevations. These symptoms include dizziness, nausea, headaches, fatigue, and confusion.

What can be done to prevent Altitude Sickness?

The best way to prevent altitude sickness is to ascend slowly and allow the body to acclimatize. Taking regular breaks, drinking plenty of fluids, and making sure to get enough rest are also important.

How can I treat Altitude Sickness in India?

Treatment for altitude sickness in India will depend on the severity of the symptoms and the elevation of the area you are in. Oftentimes, rest and hydration are enough to ease the symptoms of mild altitude sickness, while more serious cases might require medical attention. Consulting with a doctor is always recommended if symptoms persist.

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