High Altitude Tips
The mountains of Colorado are among the most beautiful parts of America, and we hope you will enjoy every minute of your visit. But some of the very features which make the high country so attractive may cause problems unless you recognize and know how to prevent them. Here’s why:
As you go higher, barometric pressure decreases, the air is thinner and less oxygen is available. It’s also colder and drier, and the ultraviolet rays from the sun are stronger. Each of these changes may have unpleasant effects on your body.
Many popular resorts are 8,000 to 9,500 feet above sea level, and the mountain summits rise a mile higher. You will probably notice that your breathing is faster or deeper and you may feel short of breath, especially when you exercise. This is the body’s first and most effective response to altitude. Your heart is likely to beat faster also; this, too, is a helpful normal reaction.
However, you may also develop a headache, a touch of nausea, or unusual tiredness; some people even have trouble sleeping. Usually an Ibuprofen product will help with the headache and an antacid product may help with the nausea. Depending on the altitude, 20-30% of all visitors from near sea level have one or several of these symptoms which we call acute mountain sickness or A.M.S. Children are slightly more susceptible; the older you are, the less likely you are to be affected.
These symptoms usually go away in a day or two. If the indicators grow worse, or if you are uncertain, be sure to consult a doctor. If you develop a worsening cough, increasing shortness of breath or feel like you have fluid in your lungs, SEE A DOCTOR AT ONCE! Altitude illness though usually minor, can become serious quite rapidly, so please don’t ignore your symptoms.
Before you leave home, you can do a few things to decrease the effects of altitude. Our studies show that spending two nights at a modest altitude like 5,000 feet decreases symptoms when you go higher. Eat more foods, which are high in Potassium, drink more water and eat less salt.
Diamox is a prescription drug, which prevents the unpleasant symptoms for many people. Ask your doctor about its use.
Once you arrive, take it easy for the first day or two. Reduce alcohol, caffeine, and salty foods. Drink more water than usual. Salt causes your body to retain fluid, which increases the severity of altitude illness.
Above all – listen to your body! Don’t push. If you feel worse and worse, get help! Minor altitude symptoms occasionally become life threatening.
Enjoy yourself, don’t let everything you hear about the mile-high altitude scare you. The air is just thinner and dryer. Following these simple tips and you will very likely not even notice the difference.