National Parks

Health and Safety

Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness can result when your body is thrown into high elevations without having time to adjust. When you're at a mile (5,280 feet) or more, and especially when you're higher than 8,500 feet, you may feel symptoms of altitude sickness: shortness of breath, light-headedness, nausea, fatigue, headache, and trouble sleeping. To help your body adjust to the new elevation, drink lots of water, avoid alcohol, and wait a couple days before attempting vigorous activity. If your conditions are severe, last several days, or worsen, seek medical attention. Altitude sickness can develop into serious conditions, and even lead to death. Some people find breathing extra oxygen (from a tank) while they sleep helps.

Animal Bites

Rangers will tell you that rattlesnakes are more scared of us than we are of them. But should they decide to lash out at you with their venomous fangs, stay calm (panic and a lot of movement can spread the poison). Have someone else get medical help for you right away. Likewise, if you are bitten by a wild animal, seek medical attention immediately. You may need a rabies or tetanus shot.


When your body gets too cold for too long, hypothermia can develop. Symptoms are chilliness and fatigue, shivering, and lack of mental clarity. If someone you're traveling with develops hypothermia, the National Park Service offers this advice: Seek shelter, remove any wet clothes from them, and wrap them in warm blankets. It also helps for you to get into the blankets with them so they can pull from your body heat. Hot beverages and high-energy bars also help.

Safety Concerns

America's national parks have been set aside to preserve some of the most outstanding landscapes in the world. This is nature at its finest, and in raw form. This means that although parks are wonderful venues for families, providing experiences they'll remember for a lifetime, it's important that children realize that national parks are not theme parks or zoos. They need to respect and take caution with the surroundings. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

Don't feed the animals. Animals in some of the larger national parks are used to humans being around and may not flee at your presence. But this doesn't mean you should feed them. It is unhealthy for them to eat people food, and because it further acclimates them to humans, it can lead to them being more aggressive, and thus more dangerous, to future visitors.

Register at trailheads. If there's a notebook where you can write down your name and the time you're starting your hike, jot it down so park personnel know where you are should inclement weather or another danger occur. Also, don't hike alone, especially in bear country.

Practice fire safety. Check with the visitor center on campfire rules, and never build fires in the backcountry: One breath of wind can carry a cinder for miles and plant it on dry grasslands just ready to blaze. When cooking over your campfire, clear the ground around it first of dry leaves and grass, keep the fire inside the pit, throw used matches into the fire, and keep a pot of water or sand nearby. Don't start a fire when you're alone, and never leave it unattended. It goes without saying that you should never cook in your tent or any poorly ventilated area.