Traveling to Altitude
Mountains are a popular travel destination. The Colorado Rockies alone attract over 20 million visitors yearly. Our research has shown that one in four visitors coming from sea level will be affected by the altitude. They experience one or more of the following symptoms: headache, nausea, fatigue and trouble sleeping. These are the symptoms of altitude sickness, also called Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) and they usually last for one to two days.
What to do if you are affected by the altitude?
Drink plenty of water – Replenishing fluids helps to stabilize your body. Because of the dryness, as well as the altitude, it is important to drink an extra 1-2 quarts a day while staying at higher altitudes.
Take it easy – Don’t overexert yourself. Light activity at the beginning of your stay helps to establish a rhythm with your cardiovascular system. Heavy exertion puts you at risk for developing altitude sickness. Be mindful of how your body feels.
Tobacco, alcohol and salty foods – Keep smoking to a minimum, drink less alcohol and eat less salty foods, especially if you are feeling any symptoms of altitude sickness.
Prevention – If you know from previous trips to altitude that your body does not adapt rapidly, there is prescription medication (Diamox) that can accelerate your body’s adjustment to altitude. Taking Diamox typically eliminates most of the symptoms of altitude sickness. Your family doctor can prescribe this medication for you.
Headache – Most people who have altitude headache will get better with ibuprofen, acetaminophen (Tylenol) or aspirin.
If your symptoms continue beyond 48 hours, or your shortness of breath happens while you are at rest, you should seek medical attention.
It can happen to anybody – Remember, AMS can affect anyone. Fitness does not protect against altitude sickness. Everyone’s body responds differently to altitude hypoxia.