Altitude Denver Airport: And 5 Steps To Avoid Altitude Sickness

Altitude Denver Airport

With over 50,000,000 million passenger flying through DIA, most want to know the altitude Denver Airport and how to avoid altitude sickness. Being based in Colorado, we'll share everything you need to know for your trip Denver or Denver Airport.

Altitude Denver Airport

Altitude Denver Airport sits at 5,430 feet (1,656 m) above sea level. This is actually slightly higher in altitude than the city of Denver nearby, which is at 5,280 feet.

  • Denver Airport altitude - 5,430 ft (1,656 m)

As a the largest airport in the US, and second largest in the world, the Denver Airport is an intercontinental hub with over 50 million passengers a year.

The altitude of the Denver Airport is one of the highest in the US of its size. By comparison² — it's slightly lower in altitude than Colorado Springs Municipal Airport (CO) at 6,187 feet (1885 m), Santa Fe Regional Airport SAF (NM) at 6,358 feet (1937 m), and Cheyenne Regional Airport (WY) at 6,160 feet (1877 m) — and slightly higher than Yellowstone Regional Airport (WY) at 5,102 feet (1555 m), Reno-Tahoe International Airport (NV) at 4,415 feet (1345 m), and Salt Lake City International Airport (UT) at 4,227 feet (1288 m).

If you're flying into the DIA to visit Colorado, altitude of the Denver Airport is likely the lowest altitude you'll encounter on your trip (outside of Denver). Altitudes such as Breckenridge get to 9,600 feet high, which doesn't include the high elevations if you ski at the many resorts in Colorado.

Here's some of the high-altitude destinations in Colorado:

Whether flying through the high-altitude Denver Airport, or visiting Colorado, you'll want to be prepared for these high elevations and risk of altitude sickness.

Can You Get Altitude Sickness At Denver Airport?

Yes. With the altitude of Denver Airport at 5,430 feet, you can get altitude sickness.

According to the University of Colorado School of Medicine⁴ — up to 10% of visitors in Denver get altitude sickness — and and up to 30% of visitors in the mountains of Colorado. The CDC states that headache can start within 2-12 hours upon arriving at higher altitudes.³

Even if you just have a short stop layover at Denver Airport, most don't realize the high altitude pressure of a plane that causes jet lag can also be related to altitude sickness. Which means many travelers are dealing with altitude sickness type of symptoms — including headache, fatigue, and disrupted sleep.

What Causes Denver Altitude Sickness?

The symptoms of altitude sickness are caused by the lack of oxygen at high altitudes. The higher you climb, the thinner the air becomes.

In Denver, there is approximately 4% less oxygen in the air than at sea level.⁵ Your body needs oxygen to work properly, and when there is less than normal oxygen in your blood, you can develop altitude sickness.

Symptoms of altitude sickness include:

  • headache
  • fatigue
  • dizziness or nausea
  • difficulty breathing
  • feeling ill
  • trouble sleeping or insomnia

With the altitude of the Denver Airport, when traveling through or visiting Denver, you'll want to be aware of altitude sickness and take preventative steps.

Is Denver Considered High Altitude?

Yes, Denver is considered a high-altitude city.

Mountain Medicine indicates that high altitude is between 4,900 - 11,500 feet, in which Denver falls into at 5,280 feet high.⁶ These altitudes have much lower oxygen levels than sea levels.

And the city is surrounded by mountains on the west side that are much higher than Denver itself, including many mountain towns and mountain tops such as Pikes Peak that get as high as 14,000 feet.

The answer depends on your individual physiology, but according to the CDC it takes about 3 to 5 days for your body to adjust to high altitude.³

If you've ever experienced the effects of altitude sickness while visiting Denver, you know how miserable it can be. The symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue and a headache.

Your body will adjust to the oxygen levels over a few days typically at altitudes like Denver at 5,280 feet.

Denver is known for its mile-high elevation. It's a place where people come to enjoy the great outdoors — but the altitude of the Denver Airport and Denver can also cause altitude sickness.

Based in Colorado, we have years of experience and research on altitude sickness that we'll share with you.

Here's five steps to avoid altitude sickness in Denver:

1. Rest & Don't Overexert

One of the most important thing for avoiding Denver altitude sickness is rest. You may feel tired and out of breath even after walking around for only a few minutes, so take it easy and rest to give yourself time to acclimate.

If you're going skiing or hiking, it's best to take a few days of rest without strenuous exercise before you start exerting a lot of energy.

Sleep has also shown by OrthoCarolina to be critical for recovery, and even helps increase blood flow and oxygen.⁷ Get proper sleep when you arrive to Denver will help you adjust — experts recommend 7-9 hours of sleep a night.

2. Maximize Your Hydration

Drink plenty of water because dehydration can make altitude sickness worse.

At high altitudes you can lose water in your body twice as fast than as sea level — according to the Wilderness Medical Society because of increased respiration.⁸

Hydrating can also help improve oxygenation in the body.⁶ Drinking plenty of water is critical while flying to the Denver Airport, then every day during you stay in Denver.

TIP: To maximize your hydration, add sea salt (electrolytes) to your water or food, and take Zaca's hydration tablets to increase water absorption.

3. Acclimate Gradually

Acclimating gradually can help you body adjust — and this step applies if you're planning to visit the Rocky Mountains while staying in Denver.

Denver is 5,280 feet high, but places like Breckenridge where skiers and hikers from around the world visit is 9,600 feet high. You'll want to stay a night or two in Denver minimum to help acclimate before you venture off into the Rocky Mountains.

Furthermore if you ski, take a day or two at the base elevation of ski resort town like Breckenridge before going off to ski. The altitude will jump again, like up to 12,998 feet high at the peak elevation of the Breckenridge Ski Resort.

4. Limit Alcohol

Alcohol is diuretic and causes dehydration, which may increase symptoms like headaches and nausea as well as exacerbate other symptoms like fatigue.
The hangover from alcohol and altitude sickness don't mix well — a recipe for a miserable experience while in Denver. Alcohol has also been shown to decrease sleep quality and lower oxygen saturation,¹⁰ both of which are bad for altitude adjustment.
Limit your alcohol intake your first day or two until you're free of any potential Denver altitude sickness symptoms.

5. Take Glutathione

High altitudes have been shown to increase oxidative stress and damage in the body.¹² Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect against oxidative damage caused by free radicals.

  • One study in India revealed glutathione to decrease by up to 45% in high altitude conditions.¹⁰

Taking an antioxidant vitamin is proved to be beneficial for high altitudes¹² — and even better, taking glutathione is both antioxidant boosting and can help replenish your glutathione levels. 

In conclusion, whether flying to the high altitude Denver Airport or visiting the high altitude city of Denver, these five steps will help you — including rest and not overexerting, maximizing your hydration, acclimating gradually, limiting alcohol, and taking glutathione.

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1. Denver International Airport
2. America’s highest altitude commercial passenger airports
3. High-Altitude Travel & Altitude Illness
4. Don’t let altitude sickness ruin your trip to Colorado
5. Oxygen Levels at Altitude
6. Effects of high altitude on humans
7. Sleep: The Secret Ingredient of Injury Recovery
8. Why Do You Need to Drink a Lot of Water at a High Altitude?
9. Tips to Boost Your Oxygen Saturation Level at Home
10. Effects of Alcohol
11. Effect of high altitude (7,620 m) exposure on glutathione
12. High altitude and oxidative stress