Risk of altitude sickness can be reduced
December 14, 2008
Mountain people often have thicker blood, says David Solawetz, cardio-pulmonary rehabilitation manager. More red blood cells thicken the blood and carry more oxygen throughout the body after a person has adapted to higher mountain altitudes.
But our guests, likely with thinner blood, need to prepare their bodies for their Colorado trip. If their enthusiasm gets the better of them and they jump right into strenuous athletic activity shortly after arriving, the effects of altitude sickness may make the experience less pleasant or even deadly.
“The most common situation is when you see a church group or a school group drive up here from lower elevations and start skiing right away,” said Solawetz. The stress of travel coupled with strenuous physical activity, lack of proper nutrition, lack of sleep and dehydration is common for travelers.
The signs of altitude sickness include headache, loss of appetite, nausea, loss of energy, lightheadedness/dizziness, and often the inability to sleep. In worse cases it can cause pulmonary or cerebral edema ” a condition where the cells basically leak fluid in the body.
Resting at a lower altitude for a day, avoiding strenuous exercise initially and increasing water intake are wise choices for reducing the risk.
Because alcohol, caffeine and salt dehydrate, reducing or eliminating consumption during the mountain vacation is wise. Eating nutritious foods will also help to reduce the risk of mountain sickness and prepare the body for a much more enjoyable vacation. Foods high in carbs are said to be best.
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If it’s too late for preparing properly and the effects occur, the first step is to take a Tylenol, increase fluids and rest.
Oxygen administration might be somewhat relieving; however, it is temporary as the actual amount of oxygen doesn’t necessarily vary all that much but rather it is the opposing air pressure from inside and outside the body that affects the body’s ability to process proper levels of oxygen for absorption.
In the more serious cases a drug called Acetazolamide or Dianox might be prescribed.
Traveling back down to lower elevations will be necessary if symptoms don’t improve.
Share these tips with friends and family who are planning to visit you this winter and they are less likely to experience altitude sickness.