Does Hiking Make You Dizzy? Here's Why and How to Stop It
Hiking is an enjoyable activity that allows you to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and enjoy the great outdoors. But if you're like many people, when you get a few feet above sea level, your equilibrium starts to go haywire. Before long, you're feeling dizzy, and it becomes difficult to keep yourself upright and moving forward.
Why does this happen? What can we do about it? We'll answer all these questions here!
What is Altitude Sickness?
Altitude sickness—also known as mountain sickness—refers to the symptoms that occur at higher elevations or altitudes. (Felson, 2021) It is most commonly experienced by mountain climbers and skiers but can also affect people who fly in planes or walk or drive up to high elevations.
Altitude sickness is often triggered when standing at least 8,000 feet above sea level. However, if you don’t gradually acclimate yourself as you travel, you may begin experiencing symptoms long before the 8,000-foot mark. (Chavoustie, 2021)
Why Hiking Makes You Dizzy
Hiking is a great way to get some exercise and enjoy the great outdoors. However, it can make you feel dizzy. This is because hiking involves a lot of movement, which causes your blood pressure to rise and your heart rate to increase. This can lead to a feeling of instability and dizziness.
Your breathing rate also changes when you hike. As your breathing rate increases, so does the amount of carbon dioxide in your bloodstream—and carbon dioxide can make you feel lightheaded.
How Hiking Makes You Dizzy
High-altitude sickness is strictly related to a lack of oxygen in the air when climbers or hikers reach certain altitudes. (Franzen, 2001) Constant exposure to high altitudes may lead to chronic symptoms.
Altitude sickness symptoms resemble motion sickness, sea, or car sickness. The air pressure drops at high altitudes, which makes your body work harder to get oxygen into your lungs.
This can feel like a tight band gripping your chest. As the symptoms worsen, your breathing becomes more rapid and irregular, leading to even worse dizziness and nausea.
Preventing Altitude Sickness
At the onset of altitude sickness, you begin to feel lightheaded, dizzy, and weak. This is caused by changes in air pressure at high altitudes, which affect the amount of oxygen in your blood.
Fortunately, you can prevent altitude sickness even if you are exposed to the elements and factors that may cause it. If you regularly experience dizziness while on a hike, these simple tips will help you manage your symptoms or prevent them entirely:
Going from an average altitude to high altitudes too quickly can lead to severe symptoms of altitude sickness. It's best to take it slow, going up only 300 meters per day and stopping for rest at each stop.
The key to minimizing your risk of developing altitude sickness is to acclimate yourself before moving forward. For example, if you’re not used to hiking more than 1,000 feet above sea level, you’ll need to take it slowly.
Stretch out your hike and take plenty of rest while climbing. This will help your body adjust to the lower oxygen levels and keep you from getting tired too quickly.
Boost Your Carb Intake
The body needs carbohydrates to function well at high altitudes. At a lower altitude, it's best to eat lots of complex carbs like legumes and whole grains. But when you get higher up the mountain, switch to simple carbs like sugar and honey (more easily digestible) and dried fruits.
Add more sodium to your diet, too; this helps retain fluid in your body so it doesn't get lost through sweat or urine so quickly.
Alcohol and altitude sickness don't mix well. The higher you go, the thinner the air, and the more your body has to work just to breathe. Alcohol makes it even harder for your body to adjust to changing altitudes, which is why it's important to avoid drinking while hiking at high elevations.
When you drink alcohol, your body increases its production of red blood cells to keep enough oxygen flowing through your bloodstream. But when you're hiking at high elevations, your heart rate is already higher than normal because it's working so hard to supply enough oxygen to your brain and other vital organs.
This can cause shortness of breath, dizziness, and nausea—all symptoms of altitude sickness—and may even lead to unconsciousness or death if left untreated.
It will help if you drink plenty of water at high altitudes. If you don't, your body will lose fluids through your lungs and skin.
It is best to avoid caffeine while hiking because it causes dehydration. Water or power drinks with plenty of electrolytes are the best beverages to drink while hiking.
Eating ginger can help relieve some symptoms of altitude sickness. It also helps to prevent nausea, which is common among those who hike at high altitudes.
The best way to get the most out of ginger is by eating it raw. You can also use it in your cooking and baking or drink ginger tea.
Take Anti-Na chews if you feel nauseous, uneasy, or dizzy. They have two flavors: lemon and ginger. They come wrapped in recyclable paper and packaged in tin boxes, so everything is environmentally friendly.
Anti-Na also boosts energy and gets you going. The ingredients are all-natural, containing Vitamin B6 and ginger root powder. This means they have anti-inflammatory properties with antioxidants that ease stomach discomfort.
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Take It Easy
One of the best things you should do while hiking is to take it easy. You may be excited about your trip and not want to slow down, but taking the time a bit of time will help your body adjust more quickly.
Get enough sleep before the hike and avoid drinking alcohol or coffee. The higher altitude can cause fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath, dizziness, or nausea. If you feel uneasiness or stomach discomfort while traveling, stay hydrated and take Anti-Na chews for relief.