Welcome to ThinkVail – we hope you find this article about preventing altitude sickness in Colorado helpful.
The town of Vail, Colorado lies at an elevation of 8,150 ft. above sea level and the ski mountain soars to its highest elevation of 11,570 feet above sea level. For people coming to Vail from much lower altitudes, this radical change in air pressure can present itself as altitude sickness.
If you are planning on visiting or are already here, this article will help with preventing altitude sickness while in Colorado.
See Also: Altitude Sickness Remedies to Buy
When you’re at a high altitude, there is reduced air pressure because the air gets thinner and there is much less oxygen in the air. This means you inhale less Oxygen per usual breathe as you ascend higher and higher. So altitude sickness occurs because of a lack of oxygen caused by going too high, too fast.
Your body will try to compensate for this by breathing more deeply or more quickly
Altitude sickness or acute mountain sickness (AMS) is a condition that is triggered at altitudes of 6,000 feet above sea level and higher. According to the Institute for Altitude Medicine, between 15-40% of visitors in Colorado sleeping above 8,000 feet get altitude sickness.
Anyone can get altitude sickness, although it is believed that people with underlying heart and lung issues are more prone to it. Also, if you have had altitude sickness in the past, you are likely to get it again.
Altitude sickness can become acute mountain sickness, which includes cerebral edema (HACE) or pulmonary edema (HAPE), both of which can be life-threatening. But this is very rare.
Altitude sickness symptoms usually set in quickly, within the first few hours of arriving at altitude and up to 72 hours after arriving. High altitude effects includes:
Symptoms will intensify as you go up in elevation and dissipate as you go down in elevation
Oxygen: inhaling a bottle of Oxygen can alleviate mild symptoms or renting an oxygen machine for more severe symptoms could be an option.
Altitude Adjustment herbal supplement: Many people swear by natural remedies and supplements and report that they reduce symptoms or prevent them from occurring
Medication: Diamox®, Dexamethasone and Acetazolamide are available medications that doctors can give to patients at high risk. Discuss with a physician first.
Food: Carbohydrates require less oxygen for metabolism and digestion than fats and protein. Foods high in Potassium can also help reduce symptoms. Remember, altitude can trigger a lack of appetite, causing people to consume a lot less. It is vital to eat plenty of food, as people burn more calories at high altitude even at rest.
Symptoms usually clear up on their own within six to 48 hours. Rest, relax and take Ibuprofen for the headaches. Drink lots of water and eat foods high in Potassium, like bananas. In most cases, just doing this will make symptoms go away.
Portable oxygen canisters will help speed your recovery. If you’re new to a high altitude area, it’s not a bad idea to buy a portable can of oxygen to have with you on your trip.
RentOxygen is a local company that rents and delivers oxygen machines and supplemental oxygen to help your body transition from sea level to altitude in the comfort of your hotel or while you sleep.
If the symptoms continue or are severe, descending to a lower altitude will help.
If nothing seems to be working after a day, the symptoms are getting worse, or you begin to have severe symptoms like slurred speech or impaired motor skills, head to a doctor right away.
There is a reason why altitude sickness should be taken very seriously – the symptoms can turn deadly.
When symptoms aren’t improving, a doctor can prescribe medications to help you feel better. This medication increases your body’s ability to breath so your blood can absorb more oxygen. This should solve all of your issues.
In very rare cases, you could be suffering from high altitude cerebral edema (HACE) or high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE). Both of these serious conditions start out as altitude sickness or occur alongside it, and, without immediate attention, can be fatal.
Both have very noticeable symptoms.
People suffering from HACE will be confused, have trouble speaking, slurring, be extreme lethargic, and have trouble walking.
People with HAPE will struggle for breath even at rest. Weakness and a cough accompany HAPE.
Both conditions require immediate descent and oxygen or the victim can die within 24 hours or less. HAPE is quicker. However, do not be frightened, these typically only occur at altitudes over 13,000 feet, and in very low numbers, so just be aware and take precautions.
In the Vail Valley, there is a mobile physician’s service that can come to your condo or hotel room if you are concerned about your symptoms. It is called Alpine Mobile Physicians.
This article should not be considered as official medical advice, it is merely a guide. Check with your doctor before heading to high altitudes. Altitude sickness can be severe and should be taken seriously.
Have you ever suffered from altitude sickness? How do you prevent altitude sickness when traveling to Colorado? What works best for you? We would love to hear your thoughts and comments.