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What Is Altitude Sickness?

Sometimes referred to as “mountain sickness,” altitude sickness is an illness caused by ascent to a high altitude and a shortage of oxygen which can result in a group of symptoms such as hyperventilation, nausea, exhaustion, and cerebral edema. When you enter a higher elevation too quickly, the atmospheric pressure drops, resulting in less oxygen available for you to breathe. Altitude sickness can occur when you fly, walk, or climb above 8,000 feet. Anyone can develop altitude sickness, regardless of age, health, and fitness level.

Symptoms of Altitude Sickness

Symptoms usually appear as early as 12 hours of reaching a higher elevation, and your body will usually adjust to the shift in atmospheric pressure within 1-2 days.

  • Lack of appetite
  • Loss of energy
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Exhaustion
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling

3 Ways To Avoid Altitude Sickness

With a little planning ahead, you can limit your risk of experiencing unwanted symptoms.

Increase Your Water Intake

Staying hydrated is always important, but did you know it can help ease sickness at high altitudes? Water increases the blood volume to oxygenate, so by making a goal to drink more water before your mountain trip, you can increase your blood oxygen levels and recover from altitude sickness faster!

Drinking enough water can sometimes be a challenge – especially when there are so many tasty drink options to choose from that are less healthy. It can be all too easy to get into the habit of relying on unhealthy, sugary sodas and juices instead of actual water. If you are a soda drinker and love that familiar fizz, you should try drinking sparkling water. Not only is it still water, but it will also give you that satisfying fizz that soda does – just without the sugar and all of the other bad stuff. Another great option for those who don’t like the taste of plain water is infused water. Infused water can be made with all kinds of things, from fruit to cucumbers to spices to herbs. The options are endless, and you can use whatever tastes best for you. A

Limit Alcohol and Caffeine

Alcohol and caffeine can both exacerbate the symptoms of altitude sickness. They are diuretics, which will dehydrate your body if you are not drinking enough water. It’s best to avoid alcohol and caffeine one day before you leave and during your trip for the best results. While many people associate vacation with enjoying an alcoholic beverage, there are plenty of alternatives you can try. Ginger beer is a great alternative to beer. It’s a sparkling probiotic beverage that’s sweet, spicy, and refreshing. You can also enjoy a non-alcoholic IPA.

Staying hydrated is one of the best ways to combat lethargy. You should start your morning by rehydrating with water, then continue to drink plenty throughout the day. You may find that your “need” for caffeine is greatly reduced as a result. Exercise is a great way to naturally energize yourself in the morning. Whether it’s a brisk walk, a quick home routine, or an all-out session at the gym, the flow of oxygen and release of endorphins is likely to give you more energy than any beverage.

Allow Your Body Time To Acclimate

If possible, give your body a day or two to adjust to a higher altitude. Spend one or two nights at an intermediate altitude before reaching your final destination to avoid these unwanted symptoms of altitude sickness. This gradual exposure will give your body the necessary time to adapt to a lower level of oxygen and pressure. If you’re planning a ski vacation in vail, arrive early and explore the city of Denver!

Alternative Treatment of Altitude Sickness

Source: TEDx Talks/Youtube

Scientist Kelly Riis-Johannessen shares valuable insight into her investigation into what happens to the brain at altitude, and she shares her experience conducting research at a high-mountain medical lab and the exciting results that her experiments have yielded so far.

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