Whether you're a seasoned traveler or a casual adventurer, drinking at high altitude presents unique challenges. As a high-altitude based company, we'll share everything you need to know about drinking at high altitude and six tips to help you avoid the dreaded negative effects.
It might be a ski destination, high elevation city, or camping trip — where high altitude can significantly impact how you feel when drinking alcohol. While altitude will not make your BAC higher, the reduced oxygen levels take a toll on your body and the combination of altitude sickness and alcohol becomes a big problem.
In our home of Colorado at 5,280 feet high, many visitors report feeling altitude sickness in the first few days, and share that they struggle to drink alcohol as it only makes them feel worse.
No, reported by ScienceFocus many studies have shown high altitude to have no effect on blood alcohol concentration (BAC).¹
The caveat missing we believe missing is that the combination of drinking alcohol and altitude sickness can exacerbate effects.
Based on the research that high altitude has no effect on alcohol BAC, therefore the altitude and alcohol myth is confirmed.
However with that being said, high altitude and alcohol mixed will likely make you feel much worse. With the potential of a hangover and altitude sickness together is a recipe for disaster.
While high altitude will not alter the effects of alcohol, the effects of alcohol can worsen the experience of altitude sickness.
The negative effects of drinking alcohol are very similar to the negative effects of high altitude. One causes a hangover, the other causes altitude sickness, and symptoms are alike in many ways.
The effects of drinking alcohol at high altitudes can cause fatigue, headaches, and nausea — just like altitude sickness.
Effects of drinking alcohol at high altitudes:
The combination of these effects of drinking alcohol at high altitude can make your experience miserable.
Yes, drinking alcohol can make altitude sickness worse.
This comes from the fact that altitude sickness has a set of symptoms that not only can be intense, they can be very similar to a hangover. These include altitude sickness symptoms such as headache, nausea, and fatigue.
Altitude sickness effects may include:
This concludes why the combination of drinking alcohol and the potential hangover will make altitude sickness worse.
Drinking at high altitude will not effect your body alcohol content, but you should be well aware of the risks at different high altitudes.
The higher the altitude, the higher risk of altitude sickness. Therefore, this compounds how bad you might feel drinking alcohol with the potential risks of the added hangover.
According to Mountain Medicine, altitudes are categorized in three different ranges. Keep in mind, while the range altitude starts at 4,900 feet, we've heard many reports such as from Julian Klapowitz MD of altitude sickness starting as low as 4,000 feet.¹⁰
Altitude Range Risks:
As a baseline, with any trip or adventure over 4,000 feet in elevation, you can be at a higher risk drinking.
As outlined in our tips below, it's highly recommended to limit or avoid alcohol until you're acclimated to the high altitude.
With that in mind keep drinks minimal, 1-3, on your first day or two. Once you feel acclimated, you can drink much more without the compounding negative effects of altitude sickness.
To ensure more pleasant drinking experience at high altitudes based on our history in the high altitudes of Colorado, we complied the top tips to help you drink at high altitude.
6 Tips To Help Drinking At High Altitude:
To conclude, drinking at high altitude can be more enjoyable if you take precautions by following these tips. By maximizing hydration, acclimating first, supporting your liver, getting proper sleep, and taking antioxidants — you can better your high-altitude experience.
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1. Does altitude affect how you react to alcohol?
2. Why Do You Need to Drink a Lot of Water at a High Altitude?
3. Effects of Alcohol
4. Hepatic Function at High Altitudes
5. Sleep: The Secret Ingredient of Injury Recovery
6. High altitude and oxidative stress
7. Effect of high altitude (7,620 m) exposure on glutathione
8. Oxidative Stress and Diseases Associated with High-Altitude Exposure
9. Alcohol-induced oxidative stress
10. High Altitude Illness