If you are ever planning to engage in high altitude sports or are planning a mountain trek in the near future, you will want to take along with you some tips for dealing with altitude sickness. Altitude sickness is a fairly common condition that occurs when an individual encounters air that contains insufficient oxygen content for his or her respiration needs. Altitude sickness in its milder forms can and does affect up to 20 percent of all mountain visitors in the United States and, in particular, those who come from lower altitude or sea level areas. Learn tips for dealing with altitude sickness that can stand you in good stead if you have a mountain trip planned for your future.
Altitude sickness occurs when a person who is unused to higher altitudes ascends to a point where the oxygen is not sufficient for their intake needs. Also called "acute mountain sickness", altitude sickness is often quite mild, but it can also become dangerously severe if unnoticed and untended to. Symptoms can start out as a simple headache, a feeling of being sick to your stomach or queasy, not feeling hungry even when you should be, feeling extremely enervated to the point where you don't even feel like you have the energy to get up, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and other symptoms.
If you suspect that you or someone you are traveling with may have altitude sickness, then experts recommend that the first and highest priority action item is to get to a lower altitude where oxygen is more plentiful. If your symptoms are very mild, you may be able to stay at the same altitude for a time and acclimate, and either stay there or climb higher once you feel better. If your symptoms are more severe, experts recommend descending and administering oxygen as you are able to, or exposure to portable hyperbaric chamber to help simulate a lower altitude. You can take over-the-counter medications, like aspirin, for the headache symptoms, and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Avoid coffee, tea, alcohol, excess sodium and other dehydrating drinks and foods.
If you know you are susceptible to altitude sickness, you can take a medication called Diamox (Acetazolamide) to help your body acclimate more quickly. You can also take Nifedipine (Procardia) to help you acclimate. If you are able to eat more carbohydrates, this can also help your body acclimate to changes in altitude. Be sure to not get out of breath within the first few days upon your arrival to the high altitude location. This will dehydrate you, which can lead quickly to altitude sickness. When you are planning your trip to a higher altitude area, do not fly into a city that is at a much higher altitude than you are used to, or you may not be able to acclimate. Also be sure that the location where you sleep is lower in altitude than the location you spend the day at. Finally, if you are planning a steep hike or ski trip, try to take the altitude in stages so your body has a better chance to acclimate.