So you’re packed and ready to hit the slopes but maybe there is something you are forgetting. Are you prepared for the high altitude you will be entering in your next snow trip? Altitude Sickness is a severe illness that could leave you in the emergency room rather than enjoying the snow. So here’s a quick guide to Altitude Sickness so that you can get the most out of your holiday.
What is Altitude Sickness?
Altitude Sickness generally occurs 2400m above sea level and when you have ascended a mountain too quickly. As you ascend there is a decrease in atmospheric pressure, which reduces the amount of oxygen in the air, making it difficult to breath. The general rule to reduce the risk of Altitude Sickness is to ascend no more than 300m a day. Those with high blood pressure are more susceptible to Altitude Sickness and should consider consulting with their doctor before ascending to high altitudes.
What are the symptoms of Altitude Sickness?
The most common symptoms of Altitude Sickness are headaches, nausea, dizziness, exhaustion, breathing difficulty, difficulty sleeping, and loss of appetite. In rare cases Altitude Sickness can cause a build up of fluid in the lungs and brain. This can be fatal and requires immediate medical attention. These severe symptoms can include confusion, clumsiness, coughing up pink liquid, and a bubbling sound in the chest.
To prevent Altitude Sickness during your next snow trip, follow these simple 6 preventative steps.
I’m sure you are eager to hit the slopes as soon as you arrive however take a day to acclimatize. Allow your body 24 hours to adjust to the altitude. When you do start skiing take it easy the first couple of days. Over exerting yourself will only make it harder for the body to adjust to the altitude. The first night you arrive try to stay at a lower altitude and then ascend to your main destination the second night. This two step altitude adjustment gives the body more time to acclimatize.
2. Stay Hydrated
Drink plenty of liquids especially water and electrolytes. The body loses more fluid at a high altitude so its important to stay hydrated. Avoid alcohol, sugary and caffeinated drinks which cause dehydration. Aim to drink 3L of water a day or even just eat a handful of snow every now and then.
3. Eat Well
Avoid salty foods that reduce the body’s hydration and increases blood pressure. Eat healthy carbohydrates to increase energy levels and help the body better absorb oxygen. Rice, brown bread, sweet potato, quinoa are all healthy carbohydrates to include in your diet. Make sure you are also getting in enough vegetables and fruits. Aim for a bowl a day.
4. Vitamins and Medication
If you already know that you are susceptible to Altitude Sickness or want to prevent it, then you can take the drug Diamox. This can be bought over the counter in most pharmacies and should be taken three days before you ascend and continued until you reach your highest altitude. Take half a tablet every morning with food. Diamox can also be used if you begin to feel any symptoms, it is then recommended one tablet every morning.
Iron supplements have also been shown to help the body better perform aerobic activities at high altitudes. However consult with your doctor on your dosage, as a high level of Iron can be toxic.
5. Descend to Sleep
Ascending and descending during the day helps the body to acclimatize so try to sleep at an altitude that is lower than what you are skiing during the day.
6. Worst Case Scenario
If you have taken all the preventative measures above and still come down with Altitude Sickness the only thing that will alleviate the illness is to descend further. Either head back down to your hotel at a lower altitude or if you still feel sick after that, then take a taxi to a town of lower altitude. Spend one night there and then ascend again the next day. If the symptoms are really bad seek medical attention.
Top 10 highest ski resorts:
You should especially take care if travelling to one of the below ski resorts due to their high altitude.
- Chacaltaya, Bolivia – 5422m
- Dagu Glacier, China – 4843m
- Maoke Mountains, Indonesia – 4800m
- Merida, Venezuela – 4767m
- Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, China – 4700m
- Gulmarg, India – 3980m
- Breckenridge, Colorado, USA – 3914m
- Zermatt, Switzerland – 3899m
- Loveland Ski Area, Colorado, USA – 3871m
- Chamonix, France – 3842m