CareNow® - August 29, 2017

Altitude sickness can be a highly uncomfortable (and sometimes dangerous) condition. Even if you live in Colorado year round and your body is relatively acclimated, you can still experience a change when traveling to the mountains.

While traveling higher than 8,000 feet above sea level, you’ll discover that oxygen levels are much lower. The average altitude in Denver is around 5,500 feet, but when traveling to local mountains, you can reach as high as 14,000 feet.

As you ascend to these heights, common altitude sickness symptoms are likely to kick in (no matter your fitness level). The CDC cites symptoms that include headaches, dizziness, loss of appetite, nausea/vomiting, fatigue/loss of energy and insomnia.

The best way to avoid altitude sickness is to know how to prevent it. By ascending gradually and following these tips, you’ll stay feeling healthy as you climb up the mountains.

1. Be sure to hydrate.

This is the best way to help your body adjust to high altitude. Generally the low humidity at high altitude keeps the air dry, so you should drink twice as much water as you would at home.

Since alcohol causes dehydration and affects fluid distribution, avoid alcoholic beverages for at least the first two days you’re at a high altitude.

2. Replenish nutrients.

Foods rich in potassium such as bananas, greens, avocados, dried fruit, potatoes and tomatoes help your body to acclimate faster. Ideally, you should avoid foods high in salt, but complex carbohydrates are great for stabilizing your blood sugar and maintaining energy. Eat plenty of whole grains, pasta, fruits and vegetables.

3. Pace yourself.

Getting acclimated to higher elevations than you’re used to can take anywhere from 1-3 days. You will feel the effects of exercise more at high altitude, so if you’re short of breath, sore or consistently fatigued, slow down.

4. Breathe.

One of the first things you’ll notice at high altitude is the need to breathe faster and deeper, since your body needs to take in more oxygen than usual. Taking breaks to focus on breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth will help you reduce symptoms.

5. Relieve symptoms.

Researchers at Stanford University found that over the counter pain relief is effective for relieving altitude-induced headaches. Ginger chews, tablets or tea can also help to quell altitude-induced stomach nausea.

If you’re suffering from severe altitude sickness symptoms, visit your local CareNow ® urgent care clinic. They may recommend a medication for altitude sickness prevention and treatment.

The good news is, most altitude-induced symptoms are mild and can be avoided—or treated—by following the tips described above. Happy traveling!

Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.