What can I do to handle a bout of altitude sickness?

I am going to be visiting Colorado for a week. The last time I went I suffered from altitude sickness for much of my trip. Would it be possible to avoid the symptoms altogether somehow?

  Topic Health Subtopic General Health Tags Altitude sickness Symptom suppression
11 Months 3 Answers 1.1k views

Jason Tanner

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Answers ( 3 )

  1. K Grace-Lily 3000 Community Answer

    I had moved to Santa Fe for work, spent a year there, and really struggled with the 7000 ft altitude, so you have my sympathies. What I'd strongly suggest is first to drink lots of water or fluids, make sure you are hydrated. And second, move slowly, take a much slower pace than you may be accustomed to elsewhere, and consciously breathe more deeply and slower so that you get more air into your system. You rapidly lose oxygen at higher altitudes and the body can't process well enough to keep your energy up. So, don't push, don't overexert, go slow, drink fluids, and if the symptoms become very difficult or severe, strongly recommend you get medical attention.

    UTC 2021-07-13 02:01 AM 0 Comments
  2. Laurence Shanet 784 Accepted Answer

    Altitude sickness is basically caused by sudden exposure to the lower amounts of available oxygen caused by high elevation. So avoiding it has to be achieved in one of two ways, acclimating yourself to the drop in oxygen levels, or finding ways to re-oxygenate. Once you've got symptoms, you'll be relegated to treating the symptoms that it causes. It's important to keep in mind that altitude sickness can be dangerous and an indicator of potential physical risk, so treat it with respect. Your body needs that oxygen. 


    Altitude sickness is not an indication of your fitness level, it's specific to altitude and acclimation. So if there is any way possible, it's good to not go to max altitude all at once. If you can increase incrementally over a few days, you're much less likely to get sick. If you're planning a trip, try to either spend a few days someplace closer to home that's at an intermediate altitude level, or go to Colorado early, and spend some time at the base level first, rather than higher up. Your body will appreciate the "practice". Also, if you're planning to partake in any exercise or physical exertion, give yourself some time before you do that just to get used to the altitude. Don't just jump right into the activities first day. After that, increase your activity level slowly day by day. 


    It's also easier to avoid symptoms than to get rid of them once you have them. So proceed with caution and don't exert yourself at first. Make sure you drink enough fluids, because dehydration can compound altitude sickness, and it's easier to become dehydrated at altitude. As soon as you feel even the tiniest onset of symptoms, stop any physically strenuous activity and go immediately to a lower altitude so you can take on more oxygen. And keep taking in fluids if you have a tendency to forget to hydrate. In addition to avoiding sudden increases in altitude, it may also help to avoid alcohol or depressants of any kind, as well as smoking or any activity that can affect oxygen intake. They can interfere with acclimatizing. 


    There are some medications used by high altitude climbers, such as  acetazolamide, but they are usually intended for higher altitude and more extreme situations than a Colorado vacation. They also have potential side effects. Still, if your past experiences have been especially severe, then you can consult your doctor about their use. And if you're already feeling unwell, you can usually find a physician or medical facility that will administer oxygen to help you feel better. But the best plan is definitely prevention. 

    UTC 2021-07-21 12:41 AM 0 Comments
  3. Altitude sickness can be dangerous.  If you anticipate having it, you might want to obtain an oxygen bottle or one of those machines people with COPD use to increase their oxygen uptake, just in case; otherwise, if it gets bad, go to the hospital!

    UTC 2021-07-11 04:26 PM 0 Comments

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