Don’t let the high altitude get you down | SkyHiNews.com

Don’t let the high altitude get you down

Will Bublitz
Sky-Hi Daily News

In order to reach Grand County, you must climb. Winter Park sits at 9,120 feet above sea level. Rocky Mountain National Park ranges from 7,500 to over 12,000 feet.

At 12,000 feet, even the most physically fit tourists visiting from their home at sea level will find themselves out of breath or experiencing headaches.

For most people, the symptoms from changing altitude will be minor. However, if those symptoms are ignored and one’s body is not allowed to adjust naturally to the change ” mountain or altitude sickness may result.

What is commonly referred to as “altitude sickness” poses no long-term health risk, but can ruin a vacation.

In simple terms, altitude sickness happens when one’s body does not get enough oxygen.

Those arriving from another state at a much lower elevation and then immediately taking part in increased physical activity such as hiking, biking or running will most likely experience headaches, nausea, fatigue and reduced cognitive abilities. A more severe case of altitude sickness will include vomiting, disorientation, loss of muscle control and memory loss. Those symptoms usually take between half and hour to two hours to appear.

The easiest and most effective step for preventing mountain sickness is to slow down. It takes a few days at high altitude for the body to adjust. If one does go on a hike or a bike ride soon after arriving at altitude, go slow and don’t try to keep up the pace you might enjoy at a lower elevation.

And hydrate. Drink lots and lots of water.

Water helps remove excess lactic acid that builds up in the bloodstream as the body works harder at altitude.

Dehydration occurs because the air in the mountains is much drier than in lower, more humid climates.

Tourists coming from Eastern states may notice less perspiration on their bodies during a hike than back home, but that does not mean the body is not losing fluids.

Because the air is drier, perspiration evaporates faster.

And wear plenty of sunblock. Being at a higher evaluation, there is less atmosphere to disperse the rays of the sun. This means that solar radiation here is much more intense than in areas that are closer to sea level. To be safe, visitors need to apply a good layer of sunblock to prevent severe sunburn. And don’t forget to use a hat and sunglasses.

If you do succumb to mountain sickness, treat the symptoms appropriately.

For a headache, take aspirin because it opens blood vessels and causes more blood flow, which will move more oxygen through the body. Treat nausea with the usual over-the-counter remedies, and if one is feeling tired, do the sensible thing and take a rest.

If any of the more severe symptoms appear, descend to a lower altitude immediately, and do so in the company of another person.


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