Study Shows Ibuprofen Helps Reduce Altitude Sickness

By Emily Murray

While it’s thrilling for  to hike into the clouds, for the 25% of Americans who suffer from a condition known as altitude sickness, the thrill is overshadowed by a variety of unpleasant symptoms.

The new found remedy however, is something you likely have in your medicine cabinet – Ibuprofen.

This new discovery can have a major positive impact on those who deal with altitude sickness but still enjoy hiking and mountain climbing. If you are lucky enough to have never experienced altitude sickness, here is a brief summary of what the condition is like. Fatigue, vomiting, nausea and headache are among the most common symptoms which are brought on by a lack of oxygen at higher elevations. In more extreme cases, it can even result in death if the brain swells past a certain amount.

The recent report that Ibuprofen (more commonly known as Advil or Motrin) can help ease these symptoms was released in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

The study involved a co-ed group of 86 participants who were hiking in the White Mountains in California for two days. Of these 86, some were randomly assigned to take ibuprofen and as a result they were 26% less likely to develop acute mountain sickness than their peers who took only a placebo.

The effectiveness is believed to come from the anti-inflammatory properties of ibuprofen. This effectively helps reduce swelling in the brain which leads to these unfavorable symptoms as the body attempts to adjust to the lower levels of oxygen.

For those who typically experience altitude sickness during a hike, the study author and his colleagues recommend taking 600 mg of ibuprofen hours prior to climbing in order for it to work. The next dose should not be taken until at least 24 hours later. Typically those who experience this type of sickness will notice it does tend to get better on it’s own the longer you are at the higher elevation but for those who suffer with the symptoms in the beginning, this Advil or Motrin may just do the trick.

It’s not the first time that medications have been used for one illness and are found to have another use. Climber and medical professional Dr. Peter Hackett also discovered that Cialis was effective for altitude sickness as well.