As an avid visitor to Colorado, I usually have a day or so where I seem to be effected by Altitude Sickness. Altitude sickness occurs when your body doesn’t get enough oxygen from the air at a higher altitude. My hometown sits at a cool 640′ above sea level, whereas Colorado Springs sits at 6,035′ above sea level — that’s a huge difference, right?! Needless to say, this can set a girl back, which I hate on vacations. So here are my favorite tips for combating the symptoms of altitude sickness in order to make the most out of your high altitude vacations!
Stay hydrated – I cannot emphasize this enough! A major symptom of altitude sickness is headache and fatigue, both of which can be remedied with lots of water. I typically drink half my body weight in ounces when I’m at home, so I try to drink my body weight in ounces when I’m at a higher altitude. Yes, you’ll probably half to go to the bathroom more frequently, but your body will thank you by running at it’s optimum level.
Rest – This is terribly crucial. I know that the idea of resting and taking it easy while you are in a new place sounds terrible, but your body will thank you. Go to bed early and sleep a little later — make sure that you are getting at LEAST 8 hours of sleep per night and you’ll be in prime condition to take adventures in no time!
Drink Sparingly – Let me give you some first hand experience, drinking at a higher altitude can get a bit crazy. Drinks will hit you significantly faster at a higher altitude, so it’s important to use caution when drinking. Stick with the ‘for every beer, have a water’ mentality because nothing sucks more than having a massive hangover and dehydration when on vacation. Talk about a mood killer!
Hydration Station – Speaking of dehydration, let me AGAIN reiterate how important it is to drink water when you’re visiting a higher altitude. Just being at a higher elevation alone can cause you to lose more fluids – I’ve heard it’s somewhere around a quart per day from breathing alone. I always make an effort to keeping at least one full bottle of water with me at all times and (as I said above) I keep to the ‘one beer, one water’ rule.
You Are What You Eat – So I have some good news for you, when you’re a higher altitudes you are actually encouraged to eat carbs — heck yes!!! Complex carbs will help your body to use oxygen more efficiently and also aid in keeping your energy levels up. Another major plus is that they stabilize your blood sugar, which can be a problem at higher elevations. Also consider foods with higher levels of potassium, as potassium helps to act as an electrolyte.
Take Easy Adventures – At least for the first few days at a higher altitude, take so easy adventures. I guarantee you that even if you are in the best shape you have ever been, you will feel winded doing the easiest activity like running up a flight of stairs. If you’re an avid outdoor adventurer like me, you will want to ease into things. We love hiking and I didn’t even attempt to hike any trail harder than a yellow level; even that didn’t happen until one almost a week of being there.
Moisturize – You’ll need extra lip balm and skin moisturizer when you’re at higher altitudes. Similarly to the way dehydration works, higher altitudes have lower pressure, which means that there’s a higher rate of evaporation of moisture from you skin. I store lip balm and sample size containers of lotion in my purse, day pack, rental car and on my bedside table.
Protect Your Skin – Remember your sunscreen ya’ll! At higher elevations mean not only that you are closer to the sun, but that there is less water vapor in the air. This means that there’s 25% less sun protection. It doesn’t matter how tan you are or how protected you think you are from the sun, put on that sunscreen; you won’t regret it.