Can You Get Altitude Sickness In A Plane?

Can You Get Altitude Sickness In A Plane

Can you get altitude sickness in a plane? Is jet-lag and altitude sickness related? These are some of the questions many wonder when traveling by air, especially long distances. As a company with expertise in altitude sickness, we'll disclose the research we've done to show you if you can you get altitude sickness in a plane.

What Is Altitude Sickness?

Altitude sickness, also called acute mountain sickness (AMS), is a condition that can affect people who travel to high altitudes typically defined by being above 8,000 feet (2,500 meters). It's caused by lower oxygen levels from the high altitude environment, and it can become more severe the higher you go.

Altitude sickness typically develops within 12-24 hours of going up in altitude. Symptoms can include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling not well
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia or sleeping problems
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness

The body needs time to adjust to the lower oxygen levels at high altitudes, the process of acclimatization.

Can You Get Altitude Sickness In A Plane?

Can you get altitude sickness in a plane? Although many will tell you that you don't get altitude sickness in a plane, science has hinted there might be a correlation. We think some passengers can get a mild form of altitude sickness, let us explain why.

Cabin pressure is a the culprit. Most commercial flights pressurize the cabin equivalent to the altitude of between 6500 to 8000 feet high (1981 to 2438 meters). The FAA regulations require no more than 8,000 feet.

That threshold of 8,000 feet is exactly where altitude sickness can start developing. In fact, even in Denver at 5280 feet high, some visitors can see mild forms of altitude sickness. Therefore, we think there's a high probability for risk of mild altitude sickness in a plane.

Don't just take our word for it, let's look at the research. Here's what studies show:

  • One simulated flight study on 502 participants showed that 7.4% of them developed acute mountain sickness
  • Flight conditions of 7000 to 8000 feet lowered blood oxygen levels (oxygen saturation) on average by 4%, which is the same affect on the body from altitude sickness.²
  • Another study showed passenger oxygen levels (oxygen saturation) between 80% to 93%, much lower than normal oxygen levels in healthy adults that are usually 95% to 100%.³
  • After long-haul flights, data showed impaired physical capacity in athletes including sleep quality, fatigue, muscle soreness, and mental readiness.¹
  • It is shown that air cabin conditions -- recirculated, cool, and dry air -- does create an environment where notable changes in fluid balance can occur, causing dehydration

In summary, to answer if you can you get altitude sickness in a plane, this above research shows that yes you definitely can. Although mild risks and symptoms, the evidence shows actual altitude sickness cases, lower oxygen levels which are alike altitude sickness causes, impaired athletes from airplane travel, and dehydration fluid balances issues.

Is Jet Lag Similar To Altitude Sickness?

While jet-lag is defined as a separate condition than altitude sickness, the symptoms are oddly similar. 

Although they share similar symptoms, altitude sickness and jet lag are considered different conditions. Jet lag is caused by changes in your circadian rhythm due to changes in time zone.

Jet lag is what you experience when your body clock is out of sync with local time. You can experience jet lag when you travel across time zones by plane — hence the name "jet lag."

The symptoms are oddly similar to altitude sickness, including:

  • Disturbed sleep or insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Stomach problems or diarrhea
  • General feeling of not well
  • Mood changes
  • Reduced appetite
  • Nausea
  • Headaches

While we acknowledge these are separate conditions, altitude sickness caused by lower oxygen levels and jet lag caused by circadian rhythm issues, we think there's evidence to show some overlapping causes and symptoms. With the evidence of mild altitude sickness in a plane, if you want to know how to avoid jet lag, it's highly possible the symptoms are linked to the cabin altitude pressure.

Two Natural Ingredients To Help Airplane Travel

Whether altitude sickness from a plane or a mountain, these two ingredients show promising results to help your body recover. If jet lag symptoms are related to altitude sickness, then these would help jet lag too.

1. Glutathione

Glutathione, the body's master antioxidant, plays a key role in combating altitude sickness. Oxygen at high elevations, which would include in a plane, depletes glutathione levels.⁶ Using this powerful antioxidant helps replenish glutathione levels and neutralize free radical damage from airplane travel.

2. Glutamine

Glutamine has been shown to increase cellular hydration and delay or lower fatigue levels.⁸ This amino acid is vital to help your body combat the dehydrating cabin conditions of planes and other possible symptoms.

These two natural ingredients, glutathione and glutamine, in combination can have substantial benefits for potential altitude sickness or other symptoms from a plane. They are a great option take as supplements, whether you want jet leg pills or altitude adjustment pills.

Our Supplement To Help Enhance Your Travel Experience

jet lag tablets

Zaca created a product that gives you a more enjoyable travel experience. A natural chewable supplement that contains both Glutamine and Glutathione, as well as a few other key ingredients, are known to give you an enhanced travel experience. It helps keep you feel hydrated and replenished throughout your trip. You can use it before or after your plane ride, or if you need to keep going on long journeys like a vacation or business trip. And designed in packets to fit in a pocket and travel with you anywhere in the world. Try our Zaca chewable tablets today and feel refreshed for you next trip!


1. Up in the Air: Evidence of Dehydration Risk and Long-Haul Flight on Athletic Performance
2. Effect of Aircraft-Cabin Altitude on Passenger Discomfort
3. Inflight arterial saturation: continuous monitoring by pulse oximetry
4. Normobaric hypoxia inhalation test vs. response to airline flight in healthy passengers
5. Health Effects of Aircraft Cabin Pressure In Older and Vulnerable Passengers
6. Effect of high altitude (7,620 m) exposure on glutathione and related metabolism in rats
7. Acute mountain sickness; prophylactic benefits of antioxidant vitamin supplementation at high altitude
8. Glutamine as an Anti-Fatigue Amino Acid in Sports Nutrition