Everything You Need To Know About Altitude Sickness


Imagine this: You have finally made it out west to the mountain you have been dying to hike for months. Coming from a town at sea level in the midwest, you could be in for quite the adventure. You have made it a few miles past the trailhead, and then it hits you. You start feeling dizzy, nauseous, fatigued and develop a headache. 

At first, you might think that you’re not in the best shape and that’s why you are having this issue. You continue to trek along because you are determined to make it to the top. 

In reality, those symptoms are likely the result of altitude sickness, and should not be disregarded. 

No matter what your fitness level is, anyone that is trekking, hiking or spending time several thousand feet above sea level can be hit with altitude sickness at any given moment. 

Why do you get altitude sickness?
Essentially, when you feel symptoms of altitude sickness it is your body reacting to getting less oxygen. This is because your body and lungs are not used to the thinner air and lower air pressure that is prominent at higher altitudes. If you or someone else is experiencing symptoms of altitude sickness, the most effective treatment is to get to a lower, more comfortable altitude. 

Symptoms of altitude sickness: 
Dizziness, lightheadedness
Headaches
Nausea
Vomiting
Diarrhea
Difficulty breathing
Racing heart

Tips for preventing altitude sickness: 
Give yourself time to reach higher elevations. 8,000 feet is cited as the elevation when the reduction in oxygen intake can cause symptoms of altitude sickness. 

Good health: General physical health plays a role in how your body will react to the change in altitude. If you’re not a physically active person, get out for some walks or jogs before your trip.
Take it easy: Altitude sickness tends to get to those people who overdo it, so just take it easy. Especially the first day.
Drink lots of water: Dehydration has been shown to be a major contributor to altitude sickness. The air at higher altitudes is extremely dry and tends to suck the moisture from your body, so you will want to drink more water than you are used to.
Pro Tip: If you’re not peeing several times a day, you’re not drinking enough.
Nourish your body: Keep yourself well-fed with foods that will energize your body.
Remember to breathe: Remind yourself to take deep breathes, this will help get more oxygen into your body.
Avoid alcohol: Alcohol contributes to dehydration, and the goal is to stay hydrated!
Slowly ascend: Acclimate yourself slowly to the altitude. 

Altitude sickness remedies:
Plenty of water
Chlorophyll
Oxygen - most pharmacy’s will have some

Variations of Altitude Sickness
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS): This is the mildest, most common version of altitude sickness. Symptoms can include nausea/vomiting, fatigue, lethargy, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping. Generally speaking, it’s similar to getting the flu.
AMS can be cured by resting at a lower altitude and listening to your body. 

High-Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE): HACE is essentially a moderate to severe form of acute mountain sickness (AMS), and happens when the brain begins to swell. Symptoms include confusion and impaired balance. 
*HACE can be fatal. Those suffering from HACE should be immediately escorted to a lower altitude. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist.

High-Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE): HAPE is when the lungs begin to fill with fluid and may or may not be preceded by acute mountain sickness (AMS) or high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE).  Symptoms include shortness of breath, dry cough, unexpected fatigue, inability to exert oneself, followed by a wet cough.
*HAPE can be fatal. Those suffering from HAPE should be immediately carried to a lower elevation to prevent added stress on the lungs. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist.

Safe travels adventurist!

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