Altitude Sickness in Kids

6 min read

Written by Editorial Team

Editorial Team

Altitude sickness sin kids

Altitude sickness in kids is fairly common. It occurs in children not acclimatized to breathing at high altitudes. It happens when the child does not get adequate oxygen to breathe easily at high peaks. Nowadays, mountains and high altitude places are frequented by parents who also take their kids along. But, they are unaware of the potential risks for children at high altitudes.

The symptoms of altitude sickness are difficult to identify in children below five years of age. Non-specific symptoms like lethargy, crying, irritability, and no interest in food are seen in them. Let’s find out more about altitude sickness in kids in this article.

In This Article

What is Altitude Sickness?

A board giving warning for altitude sickness

Altitude sickness occurs when you travel to a high elevated place (8000 feet or above the sea level). The sickness includes a combination of symptoms that show up when your body cannot take less oxygen than what it is used to. Those who live in the mountains can adjust to less oxygen. So, it is not tough for them to adjust there.

As you go high up in the mountain the air pressure decreases which makes it difficult to breathe and you may feel sick. Altitude sickness can happen to any age group person. But, some people are more vulnerable to it than others. And, while adults can easily tell if they are feeling unwell, altitude sickness in kids is just a little more difficult to identify.

What Are The Different Types of Altitude Sickness?

There are 3 different types of mountain sickness

Altitude sicknesses are of three types-

Acute Mountain Sickness-

This is the most common type of altitude sickness and the mildest. The cause of this sickness is less oxygen in the atmosphere as the altitude increases. Though the percentage is the same atop mountains as the sea level. But, due to low air pressure, it gets difficult to drive the oxygen from the air to the lungs and bloodstream. A child may sometimes experience labored respiration.

High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)-

This altitude sickness affects the lungs filling them with fluid. This medical emergency needs immediate attention. Though it is not severe, it can still cause death faster than other types of altitude sickness.

High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE)-

This altitude sickness causes swelling of the brain and is the most dangerous condition. It needs emergency care.

Causes of Altitude Sickness in Kids

Usually, it is safe for kids to go to high altitude destinations. But, if their bodies are not used to adjusting to the low oxygen level, they suffer from high-altitude sickness. It is important to give some time to adapt to altitude-related changes. Your child may experience altitude sickness if there is not enough time to acclimatize to high altitudes.

What Are The Symptoms of Altitude Sickness in Kids?

Dizziness, nausea, vomiting are some symptoms of altitude sickness

Identifying altitude sickness in a child is difficult initially as the symptoms are nonspecific. They may appear after 8 to 36 hours after arriving at a high-altitude place. But, they can also show up as early as 1 or 2 hours after reaching an altitude. You may notice the following changes in your child’s behavior-

  • Headache, fatigue, and dizziness
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Trouble eating
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting

In case of severe conditions, the complexion of your child may turn blue or pale. They may also feel shortness of breath, cough, vomiting, or dehydration.

How to Treat Altitude Sickness in Kids?

Doctor may prescribe medicine in extreme cases

There are several ways to treat altitude sickness in kids. From home remedies to medicines, you can try any of the alternatives listed below to provide comfort to your child-

  • If your child has minor signs of altitude sickness, you can try a less elevated place to help him or her acclimatize slowly to the altitude. The symptoms usually take a few days to subside.
  • Keep your kids hydrated. Let them drink plenty of fluids. In case of vomiting, they should take either water in small amounts or some electrolyte solution frequently to prevent dehydration.
  • Encourage your child to breathe faster than usual to receive more oxygen.
  • You can give some medication to your child if the symptoms are bad. Also, better consult with your pediatrician before traveling to a high altitude place so that they can prescribe some medicine for your child.
  • If your child turns blue or pale or shows symptoms more than minor discomfort, rush to the emergency service for help. They can check the oxygen in the blood and find if it is due to altitude sickness. They may also recommend some blood tests, a CT scan, an ECG, or a chest X-ray if your child’s symptoms are severe.
  • If your child has only acute mountain sickness, providing oxygen and descending to a lower altitude can help to cure the sickness. But, in the case of HAPE or HACE, your child will need close monitoring or treatment.

Tips to Prevent Altitude Sickness in Children

With proper care altitude sickness can be managed

Not all children are affected by high altitudes, but some may have dizziness, shortness of breath, excessive thirst, poor appetite, disturbed sleep, headaches, and overall physical fatigue. Hence, follow a few tips to prevent altitude sickness in kids-

  • Let your child climb slowly and not too fast
  • Give some time to acclimatize. Do not exert pressure on your child. Let your child’s body get adapted to the altitude
  • Increase your child’s daily dose of water when you are traveling to a high-altitude place. You should let your child drink double the water they consume at home. This will help to prevent dehydration
  • Give your child high-potassium food such as broccoli, avocado, bananas, cantaloupe, etc. which are beneficial to high-altitude places as they balance the salt intake in the body
  • Consult with your doctor and carry some preventive medicines with you before you travel with your kid to any high-altitude place
  • Sleeping in a low-altitude area can prevent altitude sickness in your child. It will lower the severity of altitude sickness and help your child acclimatize
  • You should turn on the humidifier in the bedroom where your child sleeps to improve moisture levels in the atmosphere

Altitude sickness in kids is difficult to recognize below five years of age. Avoid young kids to high altitude places, if possible. But, even if you have to travel with your child, take preventive steps. Those may lower the risk of altitude sickness in your kid. Also, consult your pediatrician for medicines before you travel with your kid to a high altitude destination.


1. Is it Safe For Kids to go to High Altitude?

It is generally safe for kids to visit high altitude places. Problems may arise if their bodies do not get acclimatized to the altitude. They may get sick and may not be able to tell. Parents need to keep a close watch on their kids if they are taking them to a high altitude place, and consult a doctor if they notice any uneasiness etc. in the kid.

2. How Long Does Altitude Sickness Last For Kids?

Altitude sickness usually subsides once the body gets acclimatized to the high altitude. However, if you feel your kid is facing a hard time adjusting to the surroundings, it’s better to move to a lower altitude region. The symptoms may subside in a few days.

Editorial Team,

With a rich experience in pregnancy and parenting, our team of experts create insightful, well-curated, and easy-to-read content for our to-be-parents and parents at all stages of parenting.Read more.

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