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Pills & Potions

No trip to high altitude should leave without certain medicines. Some are prescription only and should only be taken on the advice of a doctor. Some of them can save your life while others will ease some symptoms, leaving you to enjoy the trip.

Opposite is a brief list of drugs used at altitude. Use it to help you decide what to take, but remember medical advice changes so check before you go.

Always carry a letter from your doctor about your medicines to avoid legal problems.





AMS Headache


500mg tablet, 2 tablets 4 times a day

and / or ibuprofen

400mg tablet, 1 tablet 3 times a day




10mg tablet up to 3 times a day

or Prochlorperazine

1 to 2x5mg tablets up to 3 times a day

AMS Prevention


Half a 250mg tablet 2 times a day, started 24hrs before ascent


Oxygen gas

Breathed continuously – cylinder or pressure bag


– Corticosteroid

8 – 16mg a day in divided doses, for up to 5 days


250mg tablet, 1 tablet 3 times a day


Oxygen gas

Breathed continuously – cylinder or pressure bag


20mg MR tablet 2 times a day


250mg tablet, 1 tablet 3 times a day



750mg 2 times a day

or Azithromycin

Capsules taken daily for 3 days


2mg capsules taken up to 8 times


Electrolyte rehydration solution

in 200ml of boiled and cooled water



250mg 3 times a day for at least 5 days

and / or Metronidazole

200mg 4 times a day or as recommended by doctor



Linctus 10ml up to 4 times a day

Sore Throat

Lozenges with anaesthetic i.e. Benzocaine

Dry chapped lips and skin

Lip balm & sunscreen

with at least SPF 15 – skin section

Moisturiser cream

Blocked nose


60mg 3 times a day

or Xylometazoline

Nasal spray

Cold sores


5% cream – 5 times a day for 5 days

Make sure you have your medicines and doctor’s letter.
Carry medicines labelled with the doses in quick to open, zip-lok bags. Keep them in two or more places in case you lose some.
Always wash tablets down with water - they will work better.

Take this list to your doctor and use it to discuss what to take and how to administer it.
Buy medicines at home. Your chemist should stock all except oxygen. Medicines may be cheaper abroad but may be fake.
Confirm any allergies.

I was stung on the shoulder with a needle-like pain. Three minutes later I started to feel itchy. After another minute I fell into someone's arms as the 'lights went out'. The team shouted for our medical barrel. Oxygen, adrenalin, antihistamine and a drip were all given in a matter of minutes. An hour later I started to recover. Next day I was able to carry on with the trip. I owe my life to the quick actions of our group’s doctor. I now always carry an EpiPen in case I get stung again.

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