Climbing a mountain? Traveling in a plane? Saddling up to the top of the ski slope? When people think about altitude sickness, they tend to picture the Andes, or the Himalayas---but there's so many situations and places where you could be effected by high altitude.
If you're planning a trip, you're going to want to make sure that you know how to avoid altitude sickness. Altitude sickness is a real thing and it can really put a kink in your trip if you're not careful. As your ultimate guide, this article is going to discuss everything that you need to know about how to avoid altitude sickness and everything else in between to understand what altitude sickness is.
Altitude sickness occurs when your body isn't able to adjust to lower levels of oxygen at higher elevations. This happens because the air is thinner as you go higher up — there's less air for your body to breathe in and out. This causes a noticeable change in air pressure, which prevents enough oxygen from entering the bloodstream. That makes it hard for the body's organs to work properly and causes symptoms of altitude sickness.
Altitude sickness is most common at elevations above 8500 feet, but it can occur as low as 5000 feet in those with little to no exposure to high altitudes. In our backyard of Denver Colorado at 5000 feet high, many visitors experience mild altitude symptoms on their trip.
Travelers often can experience various forms of altitude sickness from minor and mild to severe. The degree to how altitude sickness affects someone depends on a range of factors including a person's rate of ascent, home elevation, overall physical health, age, gender, their body's susceptibility to altitude sickness, and priori experience at high altitudes.
Altitude sickness can be a serious risk for travelers, as well as for individuals who live at higher elevations. The World Health Organization It is estimated by the World Health Organization that about 40 million tourists every year climb to high (8202 - 17388 feet) and very high altitudes (17388 - 29035 feet). And anywhere between 25% to 85% of those travelers can be effected by altitude sickness.
The symptoms of altitude sickness can vary widely, but in general, they will be more severe the higher you climb. Altitude sickness is caused by a lack of oxygen at high altitude. As your body absorbs less oxygen the higher you go, these symptoms will increase. Altitude sickness usually develops 6 to 24 hours after arriving at a high altitude, but it can occur earlier or later.
The most common symptoms of altitude sickness include:
The three types of altitude sickness are acute mountain sickness (AMS), high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE) and high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE). HACE and HAPE are much more serious than AMS. AMS usually goes away when you return to a lower altitude or after your body has adjusted to the altitude. HACE and HAPE need immediate medical attention.
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is the body's response to high altitudes. AMS occurs because your body isn't getting enough oxygen and you're breathing too much of the lower-oxygen air found at high elevations. The lower oxygen content of the air has many effects, including: dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, vomiting, stomach discomfort (nausea), insomnia, loss of appetite, headache. For most people, AMS is uncomfortable, but is typically not life-threatening. Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) most often occurs when going from sea level to altitudes above 50000 and 8000 feet (2,400 meters), or higher.
High-altitude cerebral edema (HACE) is a life-threatening condition in which fluid leaks out of capillaries in the brain. HACE is one of the most serious altitude-related conditions and is caused by swelling of brain tissue from fluid leakage and can lead to coma and death.
Although the condition is rare and occurs in less than 1 percent of people who ascend too quickly, if HACE is left untreated, it can be fatal. Treatment for HACE involves immediate descent and medical care immediately. Your doctor may give you oxygen therapy, drugs to reduce swelling, and intravenous fluids.
HAPE is the other life-threatening form of high-altitude illness that occurs when the lungs' small air sacs (alveoli) fill with fluid. This interferes with oxygen exchange, and is one of the most severe forms of high-altitude illness.
High-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) HAPE is much more dangerous than AMS. HAPE may also cause coughing and a sensation of tightness in the chest. The cough from HAPE often sounds like "whistling pectoris" due to the extra pressure in the lungs from fluid buildup. It can be fatal if not treated immediately.
Whether Mt Everest at 29,000 feet or Aspen at exactly 8,000 feet, altitude sickness is a real thing in a large range of elevations. Both people on vacation destinations, ski trips, or those on an extreme high altitude climbs can be effected. A few of the countries and states to prepare for altitude sickness are: Argentina, China, India, Pakistan, Kenya, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tibet, Nepal, Tanzania, Peru, Italy, Switzerland, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Alaska, Colorado, California, Washington, New Mexico, Oregon
These are just a few of the top destinations for vacationing or climbing with high altitudes:
Diagnosis of altitude sickness relies on symptoms and the history of the climb. If caught early enough, rest at lower altitude can help prevent altitude sickness or alleviate symptoms and stop them from increasing in severity. Treatment for this specific condition should not be taken lightly as it can quickly become life-threatening if not treated properly. Effects of this condition range in severity but if left untreated can lead to permanent damage or death. In order to treat correctly with medication and/or oxygen therapy, a diagnosis must first be made. Therefore, medical professionals use several different diagnostic tools to determine the level of severity of Altitude Sickness (AMS).
If symptoms become worse or you have any reason to suspect that you might have HAPE or HACE (see "Signs and Symptoms" below), descend immediately and seek medical attention.
There's several natural things you can do to avoid altitude sickness by being properly prepared.
Our recovery chewables called Zaca are sold in stores throughout the Colorado Rocky Mountains for high altitude recovery. Zaca helps your body hydrate, replenish and recover better at high altitudes. The formula also includes glutamine and glutathione, two key ingredients as shown in studies to help with altitude. Try our sugar-free Recovery Chewables today!
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