ALTITUDE - ILLNESS
As you ascend to higher altitudes, atmospheric pressure decreases,
the air is thinner and less oxygen is available. It is also
colder, drier and the ultraviolet rays from the sun are stronger.
Each of these changes may have unpleasant effects on your
Above 8000 feet, altitude illness affects 20 to 30% of visitors
from low altitude to some degree. The extent to which you
are affected depends on how quickly you ascend, what elevation
you attain, how hard you exercise, what you eat and drink
and what health problems you may have (smoking, emphysema,
asthma, anemia, diabetes and high blood pressure). When planning
a trip to an area above 8000 ft. consult with your doctor
if you have any questions
After arriving at high altitude, you will probably notice
that your breathing is faster and/or deeper, and you may feel
short of breath especially when exercising. This is the body's
first and most effective response to higher elevation. In
addition your heart is likely to beat faster and you may develop
nausea, unusual tiredness, headache, or have difficulty sleeping.
Visitors with one or more of these symptoms may have acute
mountain sickness (AMS). This form of altitude illness usually
resolves in a day or two. If the symptoms become worse or
if you are concerned be sure to consult a doctor.
A wet cough, increasing shortness of breath or the feeling
of fluid collecting in your lungs may signal a more serious
condition called High Altitude Pulmonary Edema or HAPE. HAPE
requires immediate medical attention.
Before you leave home, you can do a few things to decrease
the effects of high altitude. Spending two nights at modest
altitude, 5000 to 6000 feet may decrease symptoms when you
ascend. Eating foods which are high in carbohydrates, drinking
more water than usual and using less salt may also help.
Diamox is a prescription drug which prevents unpleasant symptoms
for many people who may be exceptionally prone to AMS. Our
experience suggests a small dose can be effective: 125 mg
twice a day beginning 24 hours before arrival to high altitude.
Diamox should not be taken by people who are allergic to sulfa
drugs. Discuss use and possible minor side effects (tingling
sensations, altered taste, increased urination) with your
Once you arrive take it easy for the first day
or two. Adequate hydration is important in the
prevention of altitude illness. Drink two or three
times more water or fluid than usual. Limit alcohol
consumption for two or three days and minimize
caffeine intake. Limit salty foods and increase
carbohydrate consumption. Above all, listen to
your body! Do not push the limits of your physical
capabilities. If you feel worse, seek medical
attention! Minor altitude illness symptoms can
occasionally become life threatening.
At high altitude the ultraviolet rays from the sun are more
intense and therefore more damaging. Even when it is cloudy
the risk of sunburn is extreme. Before going out protect yourself
and your family from the suns ultraviolet rays. Apply a sunscreen
SPF 15-30 to your skin before beginning outdoor activities
and every two hours while outside.
To prevent sun injury to the eyes, wear sunglasses or goggles
with (UV) protection.
COLD - INJURY
The air temperature falls about three degrees Fahrenheit for
every 1000 feet of elevation gain. Therefore, temperatures
in the high country can drop rapidly. Hypothermia (low body
temperature) can occur when you are wet, chilled, fatigued
or dressed inappropriately; even during warm weather. Warning
signs are confusion, difficulty speaking, irritability and
loss of coordination. Bring along extra clothes, drink and
eat sufficiently and watch for warning signs in each other.
If in doubt, stop, warm up, take fluids and food, and if necessary
send for help.
Frostbite is caused by cold exposure resulting in ice crystals
forming in the skin. It frequently occurs in the extremities,
specifically the nose, ears, fingers and toes. The skin becomes
numb, firm and yellowish white in color. Rewarming causes
tingling and pain with skin color changes and blisters occurring
in severe cases. Prevention includes dressing appropriately
in winter (layering), wearing boots and gloves that are not
wet or too tight, and taking time to warm up frequently.
Consult a doctor for severe cases of any of these injuries
due to exposure to cold weather. If you have any concerns
regarding cold injury related problems please contact your doctor ASAP.