What is Trek Fever and How to Avoid it

I want to tell you a true story about my friend Aditya and his trek fever.

Aditya is your average fit guy from Bangalore. He plays football regularly, sets off on short treks in the hills once a month, and goes on Himalayan treks perhaps once or twice a year.

He usually completes his treks comfortably. Later, he comes back to Bangalore and regales me with exciting stories.

For the next few days, I don’t hear from him.

I find out he’s sick. He has a high fever.

This has happened every time Aditya has gone on a trek. After every high altitude trek, he has fallen sick.

This is not the case with just Aditya. It has happened within the Indiahikes office too. To our Head of Operations, Vishnu Benne when he came back from Pin Bhaba this August. It has also happened with our Merchandise Head, Pooja when she came from Roopkund in June. 

Returning from a long trek and falling sick is what we call Trek Fever.


So why do you fall sick after a trek?

Firstly, going on a high altitude trek isn’t natural for your body. You’re constantly battling unfamiliar temperatures, terrain and altitude. You’re putting your body through a rigorous regime every day for almost a week.

To pull through, your body is eating up all available resources to keep you going — your reserve fats, your muscles and your immune system. After a point, your body is mostly pushing itself on adrenaline. By the end of your trek your body is drained.

Think of your body as a battery whose charge is slowly reducing. By the end of your trek, its charge is completely depleted.

This is where the fever happens…

When your trek ends, your body’s immune system is at its lowest. The moment you get off the hills, the pollution, grime, bacteria and viruses in the air are almost waiting gleefully to attack you. And they do.

Your body, with its diminished charge, doesn’t have the strength to fight off the bad elements.

Invariably, most trekkers fall sick. They get a bout of flu, sometimes even typhoid and jaundice.

What I want you to know is that a trek fever is completely normal, but completely avoidable too. You really don’t want a trek fever to complicate further. Worse, it may be eating into the already meagre leaves that you get at work.

Roopkund - Indiahikes - Deepak A Jacob
Catching a flu after spending a week in the Himalayas is quite common Picture by Deepak A Jacob

How do you avoid trek fever?

There are a bunch of things you can do to avoid trek fever. I’ll put them down in points below.

1. Before your trek, run that extra mile

This is the most effective way of beating trek fever. The more you prepare, the more you build your body’s immune system. It is as simple as that.

So if you get extra-fit for your trek, your body has that extra bit of resource to protect you from the bad elements of the non-Himalayan environment.

To put it simply, your battery lasts longer.

If you can be consistently fit and make fitness a part of your lifestyle, as opposed to being just-about-fit for your trek, there is very little chance of you getting trek fever.

Pangarchulla Trek - Indiahikes
Make fitness a part of your lifestyle to avoid falling ill after a trek Picture by Nikhil Patil

2. Don’t indulge in junk food after your trek

Junk food is never good for your body. Especially not at those dhabas on your transit from the base camp. No chicken legs at the nearest KFC either.

Instead, you need fresh food.

When you have no choice but to eat outside, then keep it basic. I usually stick to curd rice. If you’re not a rice person, contain yourself to plain rotis and dal.

3. Avoid sightseeing immediately after your trek

Crowded places with sweaty tourists should be last on your agenda immediately after your trek.

It’s better to go sightseeing before your trek, provided your “sightseeing” doesn’t involve bungy jumping or rafting.

If you really need to go sightseeing after your trek, give it a gap of at least two days after your trek. Give your body time to recuperate.


What do you do if you have trek fever?

Rest.

Nothing works magic like resting. You’ll bounce back to life within a few days. You really don’t need to rush to a doctor. However, if you are still sick after three days, meet witj your physician. You may need medication.  

Roopkund-Rhushabh Goradia- Finding Solace at Ali Top
Some good rest is all you need after a great trek! Picture by Rhushabh Goradia

Conclusion

If you have faced trek fever, drop in a comment with your experience. If you would like to contribute to our study of the same, do take this 90-second survey and fill in your answers. 

Swathi Chatrapathy

Swathi Chatrapathy

Swathi Chatrapathy heads the digital content team at Indiahikes. She is also the face behind India's popular trekking video channel, Trek With Swathi. Unknown to many, Swathi also writes a weekly column at Indiahikes which has more than 100,000 followers. A TEDx speaker and a frequent guest at other events, Swathi is a much sought after resource for her expertise in digital content. Before joining Indiahikes, Swathi worked as a reporter and sub-editor at a daily newspaper. She holds a Masters in Digital Journalism and continues to contribute to publications. Trekking, to her, is a sport that liberates the mind more than anything else. Through trekking, Swathi hopes to bring about a profound impact in a person's mind, body and spirit. Read Swathi's columns. Watch Swathi's videos.