High Altitude Medications Used to Treat Altitude Sickness

Various medications are currently used to treat altitude sickness or elevation sickness. These medications need a prescription from a licensed medical physician.

Acetazolamide (Diamox)

Acetazolamide (Diamox) is one most commonly prescribed medications to treat altitude sickness or decrease the symptoms of altitude sickness. It works by maiking the blood more acidic. Acidic blood causes you to to breathe deeper and faster to get more oxygen to the cells.

Studies have shown that prophylactic administration of acetazolamide at a dose of 250mg every eight before and during rapid ascent to altitude results in fewer and/or less severe symptoms (such as headache, nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness, drowsiness, and fatigue) of acute mountain sickness.

Side effects include tingling of the fingers, toes and face(sometimes very uncomfortable), excessive urination; and very rarely, blurring of vision. Carbonated beverages will also taste flat.

Most of the time just descending gradually once symptoms appear will resolve the symptoms.


Dexamethasone is a steroid type drug used in emergency situations and can be life saving in people with HAPO & HACO. It works by decreasing brain swelling and reducing the pressure in the skull.


Nifedipine is a vasoditatoe that is used normally to treat high blood pressure and chest pain, but also seems able to decrease the narrowing in the pulmonary artery (pulmonary vasodilation) resolving the pulmonary hypertension. It can be used in the treatment of HAPO, though it is not as effective as of dexamethasone in treatment of HACE.

Nifedipine can cause a decrease in blood pressure so a patient needs to get up slowly from a sitting or reclining position.

Furosemide (Lasix)

Fursomide is a diuretic that will assist in removing fluid from the lungs in HAPO and reverse the suppression of urine brought on by altitude. However, furosemide can also lead to collapse from low volume shock if the victim is dehydrated.


Ibuprofen is the over the counter medication remedy of choice in treating headaches cause by altitude sickness.