Why Do I Feel Sick After Hiking : Symptoms, Causes and Prevention

Why Do I Feel Sick After Hiking

The beauty of hiking lies in its ability to push us beyond our comfort zones and challenge our physical and mental limits. However, with these challenges, there come certain risks and factors that may contribute to feeling unwell after a hiking expedition.

Throughout my journeys, I’ve encountered and observed various scenarios that have triggered these feelings of sickness, ranging from simple misjudgments to more serious health-related issues.

When a beginner hikes, fatigue often makes him tired so he may feel sick. Other than that you can also feel motion sickness and altitude sickness or you may have old symptoms or pre-existing health issues that may cause sickness after hiking.

Why Do I Feel Sick After Hiking

Caution: I’m not a medical expert, but my experiences and observations can serve as a guiding compass to help you better prepare for your adventures and make the most out of your time amidst nature’s wonders. Because as a hiker, I engage with different people daily.

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Why Do I Feel Sick After Hiking?

Indeed, distinguishing between normal fatigue and signs of sickness after a hike is perplexing for many hikers. It’s essential to pay attention to our bodies and recognize the differences to ensure our well-being during and after the adventure. Now here are some reasons I have listed why you feel sick after hiking.

Fatigue Is Normal

After a strenuous hike, feeling tired and fatigued is entirely normal. Our muscles have worked hard, and our bodies may need some time to recover. In such cases, adequate rest and a good night’s sleep can work wonders in rejuvenating our energy levels.

Why Do I Feel Sick After Hiking?

Deep sleep allows our bodies to repair and rebuild, helping us feel refreshed and ready to take on new challenges. However, if the feelings of fatigue persist or are accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it might be an indication of something more than just post-hike exhaustion.

These symptoms may include persistent nausea, dizziness that doesn’t subside, severe headaches, or unusual shortness of breath. In such situations, it’s crucial not to ignore the signs. If you find that rest and sleep haven’t improved your condition, it’s advisable to seek professional medical attention.

Consulting a medical officer or healthcare provider can help determine if there’s an underlying health issue that needs to be addressed promptly.

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If you are new to hiking, rest assured that you are not alone in facing these challenges. Many of us beginners go through similar experiences, and it’s essential to be prepared for them to fully enjoy the wonders of the great outdoors.

While hiking may seem like a simple activity, it demands more from our bodies than we might realize. For beginners, the sudden increase in physical activity, especially on challenging terrain, can take a toll on our muscles and stamina.

Moreover, as we explore new hiking trails, we might underestimate the importance of pacing ourselves. Setting a brisk pace from the outset often leads to overexertion, causing fatigue, dehydration, and even dizziness or nausea.

Common mistakes of beginners

It’s crucial for novice hikers to build their endurance gradually, starting with shorter and less strenuous hikes before venturing into more demanding terrains.

A common mistake for beginners is not being adequately prepared with the right gear and provisions. Failing to carry enough water and snacks lead to dehydration and low energy levels, both of which contribute to feeling sick during or after the hike.

Moreover, improper footwear or clothing choices also lead to discomfort and blisters, detracting from the overall experience.

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Trail Difficulty

As a beginner, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the trail’s difficulty level and terrain, ensuring you choose hikes that match your current fitness and experience. Learning how to recognize and respond to early signs of fatigue or discomfort can prevent more severe issues during the hike.

Pre Existing Health Issues

One crucial aspect that hikers must acknowledge is the potential impact of pre-existing health conditions on their overall well-being during a hiking journey.

Conditions such as asthma, heart problems, high blood pressure, or diabetes can pose significant challenges when engaging in strenuous activities, including hiking.

For instance, if you have asthma, the elevated altitude and varying climatic conditions during a hike can trigger respiratory difficulties, leaving you feeling breathless and nauseous.

Similarly, those with heart issues may experience heightened discomfort due to increased exertion on their cardiovascular system.

It’s crucial for anyone with pre-existing health conditions to consult their healthcare provider before embarking on a hiking adventure. A medical professional provides valuable insights, assesses your fitness level, and offers personalized advice to ensure your safety and well-being during the hike.

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Sun Exposure

When we venture into the great outdoors, the sun becomes an ever-present companion. Its rays are especially potent at higher altitudes, where the air is thinner, and the ultraviolet (UV) radiation is more intense.

As a hiker who has experienced the consequences of sun overexposure, I can attest to the importance of understanding its impact on our bodies.

One of the most common heat-related symptoms resulting from sun exposure is nausea. The intense heat from the sun can cause our bodies to work overtime in an attempt to regulate our internal temperature.

When this happens, blood flow is redirected to the skin’s surface to facilitate cooling through sweating. This process, while crucial for heat dissipation, can also cause a decrease in blood flow to the stomach and digestive system. As a result, digestion may slow down, and feelings of nausea may arise.

Furthermore, prolonged exposure to the sun often leads to dehydration, a condition where the body loses more fluids than it takes in. Dehydration exacerbates feelings of nausea and also leads to other symptoms such as dizziness and fatigue, further compromising our hiking experience.

To combat the effects of sun overexposure, it is essential to take preventive measures before embarking on a hike. Wearing appropriate clothing that covers exposed skin, such as long-sleeved shirts and wide-brimmed hats, can provide a barrier against harmful UV rays.

Applying sunscreen with a high SPF rating can help shield our skin from sunburn and reduce the risk of heat-related ailments.


During my hiking escapades, I’ve learned the hard way that fueling my body with the right nutrients is paramount to a successful and enjoyable journey.

One of the primary causes of feeling sick after hiking is the lack of food or improper nutrition during the trek. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the excitement of the trail and forget to nourish ourselves adequately.

When we hit the trails, our bodies become powerhouses of energy expenditure. With each step, we burn calories and deplete our glycogen stores. These stores are the primary source of energy for our muscles, and without replenishing them, our bodies start to feel the strain. Skipping meals or not consuming enough food during the hike can lead to discomfort and an overall feeling of malaise.

Not only does improper nutrition deplete our energy reserves, but it can also affect our electrolyte balance. Electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium, are essential for maintaining proper muscle function and hydration.

Sweating on the trail also leads to the loss of these vital minerals, and without replenishing them, we may experience muscle cramps, weakness, and even dizziness.

Inadequate nutrition also impacts our body’s ability to regulate its temperature. During strenuous hikes, our bodies produce heat, and we rely on proper hydration and nourishment to cool down through perspiration.

When we lack the necessary nutrients, our body’s ability to regulate its temperature becomes compromised, making us susceptible to heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

As hikers, we must prioritize our nutrition to ensure we have a safe and enjoyable experience. Packing a variety of nutritious snacks and meals that are easy to consume on the go can make a significant difference.

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Motion Sickness

I’ve witnessed that certain individuals often experience motion sickness when hiking on uneven terrain or rough trails. It’s an unsettling feeling that can dampen the thrill of an otherwise exhilarating adventure.

The cause of motion sickness during hiking is attributed to the body’s complex sensory system. When we hike on uneven terrain, our eyes perceive the movement of the surroundings, but our inner ears, responsible for balance and spatial orientation, detect a different motion or lack thereof. This conflicting information confuses our brains, leading to a sense of imbalance and discomfort.

For those susceptible to motion sickness, tackling rugged trails with constant changes in elevation and rocky paths can trigger the symptoms. Each step may introduce a new sway, bounce, or jolt, exacerbating the disconnect between visual and vestibular cues.

Even experienced hikers may find themselves susceptible to this ailment, as it’s not solely based on hiking proficiency but rather on an individual’s physiological response.

To mitigate the impact of motion sickness while hiking, there are several practical steps that can be taken.

Staying hydrated and well-rested before the hike can help alleviate symptoms.
Maintaining a steady pace and focusing on a fixed point in the distance can provide a sense of stability, reducing visual-vestibular conflict. It’s also beneficial to take short breaks during the hike to let your body adjust and regain its equilibrium.

Being aware of potential triggers and listening to your body is essential. If you begin to feel unwell, consider taking a break or adjusting your hiking route to a smoother path. Remember that motion sickness is not a sign of weakness or lack of skill; it’s merely a natural response that some individuals are more susceptible to than others.

By acknowledging the possibility of motion sickness and adopting preventive measures, hikers can embark on their journeys with greater confidence, knowing that they are prepared to handle this challenge should it arise. With a mindful approach, even the most rugged terrains can be conquered without the intrusion of motion sickness, allowing you to savor every moment of your outdoor escapades.

Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness, also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), occurs when hikers ascend to elevations above approximately 8,000 feet (2,400 meters) where the air becomes thinner and oxygen levels drop significantly.

At these elevated heights, the air pressure is lower, and as a result, there is reduced availability of oxygen molecules in each breath we take. Our bodies naturally adjust to this change, but it takes time for them to acclimate to the decreased oxygen levels.

Altitude sickness typically starts to manifest within the first 24 to 48 hours of arriving at higher altitudes and can present various symptoms, with nausea and dizziness being among the most common.

To prevent or minimize the impact of altitude sickness, gradual acclimatization is essential. Taking your time to ascend slowly allows your body to adjust to the altitude, giving it a better chance to cope with the decreased oxygen levels. Proper hydration is also crucial, as staying well-hydrated helps your body adapt more effectively to altitude changes.

When hiking at higher elevations, the decrease in oxygen levels gives rise to altitude sickness, causing symptoms like nausea and dizziness. By being mindful of these potential challenges and taking appropriate precautions, hikers can increase their chances of a successful and enjoyable experience amidst the breathtaking beauty of high-altitude landscapes.

Remember, your safety and well-being are paramount, and understanding the impact of altitude on your body is the key to conquering the heights with confidence and joy.

Physical Fitness

Physical fitness plays a significant role in how well a hiker copes with the demands of the trail. A well-conditioned body can better handle the physical exertion required during the hike, minimizing the risk of exhaustion and fatigue-related symptoms. On the other hand, hikers who may not be as physically fit might experience more significant strain, leading to feelings of sickness or discomfort.

Altitude also influences how the body responds to physical exertion. As mentioned earlier, higher elevations can lead to altitude sickness, even for experienced hikers. Maintaining good physical fitness can aid in coping with the effects of altitude changes and reduce the chances of altitude-related symptoms.

To ensure a positive hiking experience and reduce the likelihood of feeling sick, hikers should assess their fitness level honestly and choose trails that match their capabilities. Engaging in regular physical activities and conditioning exercises can also improve endurance and prepare the body for the challenges of hiking.


Overall, as hikers, it’s essential to listen to our bodies, prioritize our well-being, and make informed decisions while exploring the beauty of nature. Understanding the effects of altitude, being mindful of our fitness level, and taking necessary precautions will allow us to embark on memorable hiking journeys filled with wonder, adventure, and a deep connection to the great outdoors.

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