Altitude Sickness Medicine: Top 3 Solutions

high altitude sickness medicine

If you are going to be traveling to or climbing at high altitudes, you need to know what medicine works best to prevent altitude sickness. Due to the increasing number of people traveling to high altitude vacation spots and mountaineering becoming more popular; This influx of travelers has also lead to an increase in the number of people being treated for symptoms of altitude sickness such as dizziness, fatigue and and headaches.

Both travelers, hikers and mountaineers alike experience various degrees of altitude sickness. We've reviewed what medicine helps with altitude sickness to help you find the best medicine to prevent altitude sickness.

What is Altitude Sickness and The Importance of Altitude Sickness Medicine or Remedies.

While you may be familiar with altitude sickness (also referred to as Acute Mountain Sickness), you might be wondering what is altitude sickness? Altitude sickness is a serious health condition that occurs when you're in a lower oxygen environment causing you to breathe less oxygen than normal. If you get altitude sickness it can make your trip a dreadful experience.

This can happen when mountaineers climb mountains or when people visit the mountains and aren't prepared for the change in elevation. It usually starts at 8000 feet and will continually worsen at you ascend to higher altitudes. Altitude sickness symptoms can include headaches, shortness of breath, disorientation, insomnia, nausea, weakness and dizziness---which is why most seek out medicine to prevent altitude sickness.

What Medicine Helps With Altitude Sickness?

According to Dr. David Gray in Breckenridge Colorado (elevation 9,600 feet), he states that up as many as 30% of visitors experience altitude sickness. That would estimate that around a third of travelers to higher altitude locations will feel the effects or symptoms of altitude sickness. Whether you’re trekking mountains or flying to a higher altitude vacation destination, there are medicines currently available to prevent altitude sickness. 

Below we lay out the best high altitude sickness medicines. Whether looking for an over the counter altitude sickness medicine or medicine to prevent altitude sickness in general, we got you covered.

Top 3 Altitude Sickness Medicine Solutions:

1. Acetazolamide (Diamox) - High Altitude Sickness Medicine

Acetazolamide (brand name: Diamox) is one of the best altitude sickness medicines that you can get from the doctor, it has to be prescribed. It’s also one of the most common.

According to the CDC, acetazolamide works by "by acidifying the blood and reducing the respiratory alkalosis associated with high elevations, thus increasing respiration and arterial oxygenation and speeding acclimatization."

A study done by the Journal of Travel Medicine showed that acetazolamide is highly effective at diminishing the risks of high altitude illness (HAI or high altitude sickness).² Another study showed better oxygenation in high altitude when taking acetazolamide.³

Therefore, acetazolamide medicine can be used both in acute mountain sickness and as a prophylactic against altitude sickness. Taking 125mg every 12 hours is what the CDC describes as an effective dose. The medication is effective in preventing acute mountain sickness (AMS), and sometimes used for more severe cases with high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) or high altitude cerebral edema (HACE).

Next up is Dexamethazone. This can be used as another option medicine by a doctor if acetazolamide cannot be procured.
The Journal of Special Operations Medicine did a review on military special operators at high altitudes. It indicated that dexamethasone is an effective treatment and prevention medicine for high altitude illness (high altitude sickness).⁴

2. Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) - Over The Counter Altitude Sickness Medicine

Ibuprofen is a painkiller and anti-inflammatory drug found in numerous over-the-counter medications such as Advil or Motrin. Ibuprofen works by blocking your body's natural chemicals called cyclo-oxygenase (COX) enzymes that cause inflammation and pain in the body. Ibuprofen is an effective medicine for altitude sickness to help allow you to travel comfortably at high altitudes without experiencing symptoms such as headaches, fatigue and nausea.

In the Annals of Emergency Medicine, a double-blinded placebo study showed ibuprofen to significantly reduce the incidence of altitude sickness.⁵

Some decide to carry a pack of ibuprofen for immediate pain relief on the go. Other altitude sickness sufferers find that it helps to start taking ibuprofen before they even head to the higher altitude mountains.

3. Zaca - Combat High Altitude Naturally

medicine to prevent altitude sickness

If you're looking for a natural approach to high elevations such as a supplement, our secret weapon for altitude is Zaca hydration + recovery chewables. They help your body rehydrate, replenish and recover. 

One of Zaca's key ingredients is glutathione, helping to supplement the important amino acid back into the body. Glutathione was shown to significantly decrease by 43%-45% at high altitudes in a study done by European Journal of Applied Physiology.⁷ Glutathione is considered the body's master antioxidant and is required for numerous functions, like combating oxidative stress at high altitudes.

Try our sugar-free Zaca Recovery Chewables for your next high altitude trip!







1. CDC High-Altitude Travel & Altitude Illness
2.The use of acetazolamide for the prevention of high-altitude illness
3. The effects of acetazolamide on the ventilatory response to high altitude hypoxia
4. The use of dexamethasone in support of high-altitude ground operations and physical performance: review of the literature
5. Ibuprofen decreases likelihood of altitude sickness, researchers find,in%20Annals%20of%20Emergency%20Medicine.
6. Altitude sickness can spoil a vacation. Here’s what to do.
7. Effect of high altitude (7,620 m) exposure on glutathione and related metabolism in rats