May 9, 2013

altitude sickness.

people always laugh at me when i warn them of altitude sickness.
but i've had a handful of family and friends who have experienced it.
headaches, vomiting, one friend's mom even needing an oxygen tank!
going from sea level to 6,327 feet can throw your body out of whack.
if you are traveling to the mountains this summer,
here are a few altitude sickness tips.

Preventing Altitude Sickness
- drink plenty of water.
i warn people to start drinking way more water than normal about two weeks prior to their visit.
and take lots of h2o with you on your adventures.
-acclimate gradually.
start out slow and steady when heading out on a hike or climb.
-take it easy on the booze.
alcohol will hit you a lot harder so be careful when you head out to the cowboy bar.

*the following tips on treating altitude sickness are brought to you by Valerie Johnston at

Treating the Three Types of Altitude Sickness

The world is indeed getting smaller, and as that happens, more people are pushing the limits of where humans can go for adventure.

Some people head up into the mountains just to enjoy some new scenery. Others like to push their own limits, participating in all-terrain races up and down mountains. Whatever the case, travelers and trekkers of all types need to be aware of the effects of altitude sickness. This form of illness can affect all sorts of people, particularly those that live at lower altitudes and are accustomed to the atmospheric conditions of those areas.

Higher altitudes differ from lower altitudes in a few ways. First, their air is thinner and air pressure is lower as the altitude rises. This means that the body has less access to oxygen, and the changes in air pressure can cause their own issues, as will be discussed. Beyond that, the air tends to be drier at higher altitudes. This, combined with the fact that the air is thinner, results in decreased athletic ability: Any amount of exertion can result in dehydration and exhaustion at very high altitudes.

Read on to learn about the three types of altitude sickness and how they can affect the body at higher altitudes.

Acute Mountain Sickness

Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is the most basic form of altitude sickness, and it comes from rising in altitude at a rate that is faster than your body is able to adjust. This is because of the rapid change in environment that you experience as you ascend. The thinner air causes a variety of symptoms if the individual rises too quickly, including dizziness, headaches, and decreased appetite. This form of altitude sickness is brought on by lack of oxygen as well as lack of moisture, as dehydration tends to be a problem for people who are experiencing AMS. This form of altitude sickness feels like fairly common nausea, and the way to combat the effects of this type of altitude sickness is to descend the mountain.

High-Altitude Cerebral Edema

Beyond AMS, the lack of oxygen can have much more extreme effects on the body, such as a high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE). The latter part of that phrase refers to a lack of oxygen traveling to the brain, leading to confusion, nausea, and loss of physical coordination. HACE is considered more dangerous than AMS and can even result in coma or death. If you are ascending with an individual that starts to act in a way that is out of the ordinary, characterized by irrational behavior, you should suspect HACE. The best way to test for this condition is to conduct a brief coordination test. If the individual is unable to walk in a straight line, you should descend as quickly as possible.

High-Altitude Pulmonary Edema

A third type of altitude sickness is a high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE). HAPE is different from the other two forms of altitude sickness in that the previous forms come about as the result of a lack of oxygen. HAPE arises as a result of another change in the environment at higher altitudes—lower air pressure. When the air pressure is too low, fluid can begin to gather in the lungs. When this occurs, the individual may start to feel symptoms that are similar to the other forms of altitude sickness, in addition to taking on a pale complexion, with shortness of breath and tightness in the chest, among other symptoms. Treating HAPE is similar to treating AMS and HACE: The individual should move down in altitude in order to gain access to better air pressure and more oxygen.

~Valerie Johnston is a health and fitness writer located in East Texas. With ambitions of one day running a marathon, writing for ensures she keeps up-to-date on all of the latest health and fitness news!


Ash said...

dude- thanks for posting this! usually when we travel up to our local mountains for the night, i end up sick. but not like how was mentioned above... i usually just WON'T sleep the first few nights we are there.. then i'm fine...

of course, consuming the mandated alcohol that COMES with going to the mountains probably isn't helping my cause either, right? right.

Heidi S said...

Thanks for the reminder on this! I definitely get altitude sickness every time I fly out to Colorado to visit my sis. I'm fine if I drive because it's a gradual transition. I think it's especially rough on me coming from Baltimore right at sea level. I get chills, headaches, and sometimes nausea, but never actually throwing up. I'm headed out there this summer for a week and will definitely be chugging water non stop like I usually do!

Jessi said...

Crazy flat-landers, when will they listen?! ;) I'm paranoid that I'm going to get altitude sickness when I finally get home to visit (CO) and go play in the hills, now that I live amongst the flat lands myself, lol. Ah well, it will be worth it 'cause there's no place like home!

Sam M said...

These are really good tips. I've never had altitude sickness, but I know people who have visited utah and gone hiking and have gotten it. I've never thought about warning people, I should do that from now on.

Jennifer said...

Such helpful tips! I've been laughed at before...people think I'm silly when I mention the issues a quick change altitude can cause. Thanks for posting these!

Tiffany @ Polka Dotted Cats said...

I am totally keeping this bookmarked for the next time I go to CO. I get so sick, every time! And it isn't even that high of altitude!