Acclimating to high altitude

Old Sep 6th, 2006, 10:19 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 20
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Acclimating to high altitude

DH and I are planning a trip to Colorado at the end of September. As my screen name implies I live in a low altitude, humidity saturated area. How hard will the 5000'+ altitude be on a couple of middle age smokers? (no lectures please) I know plenty of Louisiana folks go sking and was hoping for advice and warnings. Thanks.
Elevation12Feet is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2006, 10:30 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 16,911
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
You don't mention your current physical condition, which will have a major impact on how you cope with altitude. Some people feel few, if any, effects; others get varying symptoms, ranging from mild to severe (dizziness, shortness of breath, etc.). If you are planning on strenuous hiking in the high country, and are unused to it, the smoking and coming from sea level will almost certainly make that very difficult. At any rate, take it slowly, keep hydrated (but do NOT overhydrate), don't drink too much booze, and start with walks, not hikes. The colors might still be very nice then, and the weather is superb in the fall--have a wonderful time! (and stop smoking now so that you can enjoy Colorado again when you are older than middle age!)
sylvia3 is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2006, 10:34 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 27,867
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
The best way to deal with altitude is to allow yourself time to acclimate and not rush into doing things too fast.

Drinking lots of water is important too. Alcohol and certain drugs increase the symptoms. On the way up, eat light nutrious meals. Watch for sunburn, hypothermia. Dress in layers. Be careful getting out of hot tubs..stand slowly.

Symptoms can be mild or severe - headache, nauseated, hard to breathe, lethargy. Swelling of face, hands and feet. The one time I had it {at Pikes Peak} my legs felt like lead and I had a terrible headache and was nauseated. It got better as we went down the Cog Rail, but it took a day to feel better. I had come from NY city a few days before and didn't really feel it anywhere else.

Now that I live at altitude, it isn't a problem.


And I think being smokers will make it worse. Just take it easy. Don't overdue too soon.
Hope this helps...
Debi

DebitNM is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2006, 10:45 AM
  #4  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 20
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for the fast replies. We both are in good physical condition, in good health and lead active lives. This trip is actually a scouting trip for us. We will be moving from the Gulf South in a couple of years and are looking for a new place to settle with opportunities for DH's career. I've always dreamed of Colorado and I'm hoping to "enlighten" my DH, who is scared of the cold. I try to tell him its a "dry" cold so it won't be so bad . We will be renting a car and touring for the first day so hopefully that will get the acclimation started before we put our walking shoes on.
Elevation12Feet is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2006, 10:45 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,496
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I am a healthy non-smoker and had altitude problems at 7,000+ by the 2nd or 3rd day. This summer I went to Santa Fe and finally took the advice that I had found here and on the internet in general. I drank lots of water the entire time, and cut out caffeine and alcohol. I had no problems at all.
MFNYC is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2006, 10:47 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 8,296
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We live below sea level (well, not our house ), and have been walking plus using the elliptical machine at the gym to get ready for our trip to Yellowstone. It's not too late to start walking before your trip. Any prep you can do now will help you then. Enjoy your trip!

Thanks for the informative posts, Deb and Sylvia!
BayouGal is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2006, 10:50 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 79
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I found that sleeping in the tall mountains of Utah bothered me somewhat. I would wake frequently during the night sucking in air.
MorganRey is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2006, 10:52 AM
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 20
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Cut out caffeine? OH MY GOD! I better start cutting back on the coffee now. Going to pour out the last of the pot.
Elevation12Feet is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2006, 10:58 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 16,524
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We go to Denver often. Our son hands us a bottle of water at the door. You will be fine after a day or so but the water is KEY--and you really can't overhydrate (despite the new stuff on it). Cut down on alcohol and caffeine for a day or so--or just basically take it easy. Aspirin helps some also.
You will want sunscreen and face lotion.
Gretchen is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2006, 10:58 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 2,498
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We live at sea level. We both exercise regularly, and yet I had trouble when we went to see the Anasazi ruins outside of Santa Fe.
They were at about 8500-9000 feet. We hiked up the hill and I could NOT get my breath on what for me should have been and easy climb.I did not have trouble in Santa Fe which is around 7000 feet. Go figure.

My boss skis every year and yet this year,for the first time he ended up with oxygen. It had never happened to him before.

I'm not sure where that leaves you. But I think you're aleady a step ahead by being aware of the possiblity.

Good luck!
angethereader is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2006, 11:33 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 8,296
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Good thread, Elevation. I hadn't read your second post when I posted because 3 of us were posting at the same time, but I see you're already gearing up.

It's beginning to sound like altitude sickness is a hit or miss situation from what all these experienced travellers are saying. I'm with you on the thought of giving up my caffeine. I laughed when I read you were throwing out the last of the pot - you are a southerner!

I would love to hear from southerners that relocated to colder climates (like Colorado) as adults and how they adjusted to the temps.
BayouGal is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2006, 11:57 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,685
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Family has gone to Colorado a few times over the last few years. Even after acclimating you can have problems especially as you approach 10,000 ft. I've gotten horrible headaches a few times when traveling over that height. It has hit me on the drive through RMNP, when dining at the mountain top restaurant in Keystone and watching sunset on Mauna Kea in HI. The first two occasions I had been at elevation for at least 3 days. Heed the advice about the water and definitely have pain relievers handy.
SuzieTrue is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2006, 12:12 PM
  #13  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 20
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I love Google Earth. The highest elevation stop in my plans is Ouray at 11176'. Plans are not finalized yet so I may make some changes for stop overs for the night.

I would also love hearing from other Southerners who now live at higher elevations and cooler climates as BayouGal suggested. Of course with the heat and humidity we are still experiencing I may need to pack my long-johns and one heavy coat to be able to enjoy the "cold" 50 degrees of the Colorado nights.
Elevation12Feet is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2006, 12:44 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 213
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
If you're interested in more information, definitely check the Internet medical sites. I suffered from altitude sickness before I even figured out what it was, and have since learned how to cope a bit better.

Altitude sickness, aka acute mountain sickness (AMS), is rarely a serious problem at 5,000 feet. If it were, folks would be in serious distress on board modern jet airplanes, where the air pressure is equivalent to 5,000 feet or even a bit higher. For the majority of people (lucky folks!), even an elevation of 8,000 or 9,000 feet won't cause serious problems. Yes, you can expect shortness of breath when exercising, but if you can breathe comfortably when not exercising, the shortness of breath isn't serious. Of course, like me, you might be one of the unlucky ones.

Who will suffer from the symptoms? I've read a bunch on the topic, including many reputable sites, and the answer seems to be: "who knows?" There's no correlation between AMS and age, gender, physical condition, or even having had (or not had) AMS in the past.

One important point: if you're suffering from AMS, do not go any higher. Mild symptoms (headaches, shortness of breath, nausea) can be dealt with, but you don't want them to get worse. AMS can be serious in its less mild forms.

How about diet? More than once, I've read that one should eat more carbohydrates and less fat - but other articles were silent on the issue.

How about drugs? There seems to be agreement that one should avoid alcohol, tranquilizers and most other drugs, unless a doctor says otherwise. Many home remedies have been proposed, but none have panned out. Until recently, it looked like ginkgo biloba might help, but a recent large study indicated otherwise. Other wierd suggestions that have been discredited: garlic (it's more likely that anyone who feels well enough at high altitude to eat garlic probably isn't suffering from AMS in the first place); Viagra (yeah, right!). Only one drug has been shown to help. Acetazolamide (Diamox) is a prescription drug that frequently helps, but it has plenty of scary sounding side effects: nausea, vomiting, changes in taste, sensitivity to sunlight, ringing in the ears or hearing problems, changes in vision - and these are just the ones considered as mild!

The simplest way to deal with the potential problem is to acclimate - increase altitude as slowly as possible. If you can arrange to stay at 5,000 feet for a couple of days, then ascend slowly thereafter, you greatly decrease your chances of having problems. A compromise is to sleep at as low an altitude as possible. At higher altitudes, you breathe funny when you're sleeping, and that's part of what causes the symptoms. The funny breathing doesn't go away, but your body gets used to it. "Funny breathing" refers to a cycle where the sleeper hyperventilates, then breathes slower and slower, than may even stop breathing for 10 or 15 seconds. This is normal even if you don't have AMS, but can be pretty scary to someone in the same room - or even yourself, if you wake up and realize you aren't breathing, or are hyperventilating!
lgott is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2006, 01:01 PM
  #15  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 20
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for all the great information lgott. I have done research on the subject but personal experiences are so much easier to relate to. My trip plans put us at 5600' for the first two nights of our trip and build from there. I'm a bit of an over-planner and it has always served me well. I will definately pack Motrin and see my Dr. before the trip for something stronger if it is needed.

I just checked weather.com. 29% humidity during a thunderstorm!! I better bring gallons of moisturizer along with water.
Elevation12Feet is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2006, 01:14 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 2,092
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Elevation, add lots of chapstick and saline spray to your list too!
AustinTraveler is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2006, 01:28 PM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 16,524
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I don't think motrin is the answer--aspirin. You want a blood thinner.
Gretchen is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2006, 02:29 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 27,867
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Elevation12Feet,
Ouray is pretty up there, but it is so worth it. If you haven't seen my trip report on Ouray and other good info on here, click on my name to see my report and type in Ouray in the search box to get lots of recent info...including the best way to drive to Ouray.

Hope this helps...
Debi
DebitNM is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2006, 02:40 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 16,911
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Oh, pooh, go ahead and enjoy your breakfast coffee and your wine with dinner--you'll be just fine. (People get gun-shy because of all the folks who come out from sea level and do dumb things like go right up to the slopes, hike trails that are too much altitude gain too fast, drink and party themselves silly, and then get into hot tubs!) Common sense and paying attention to your body will be the key. BTW, the Denver area gets incredible amounts of sunshine year round (tell the spouse), and the temperatures can be downright balmy in the winter (and the opposite, of course). The axiom is, "don't like the weather, wait a day" (we've skied in the mountains and come home and played golf the same day).
sylvia3 is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2006, 02:40 PM
  #20  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 16,911
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
p.s. Just FYI, there's just about no place left to smoke outside your home in this state...
sylvia3 is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 11:38 PM.