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Hello, Friends! Have you heard of ways to avoid or reduce high altitude sickness? Have you dreamed of hiking to Machu Pichu? Or have you imagined riding through the Tibetan High Plateau? What about a visit to Everest Base Camp or summiting Mount Kilimanjaro?Â Â All of these incredible experiences are at altitude, which means you can get altitude sickness. High altitude sickness is scary, and can be serious. Read on to find the best tips to avoid or reduce high altitude sickness.
What is high altitude sickness and what are the symptoms? You may find yourself with stomachaches, headaches, dizziness, loss of appetite, and a host of other unpleasant symptoms when you go to high altitude. But there are ways to reduce the symptoms and help you acclimate.
How to Avoid or Reduce High Altitude Sickness
Definition of Altitude Sickness
A headache, so what? You may think. But please, think again. High Altitude Sickness occurs when your body and brain do not receive enough oxygen because of the decreased atmospheric pressure at higher altitudes. Those who were born high up are usually adapted to it, but everyone needs to adjust when going from sea level.
For some people, you wonât even notice the altitude up to about 10,000-12,000 feet. Others will start feeling it even at much lower altitudes. The symptoms can vary. Mild symptoms include loss of appetite, headache, dizziness, insomnia, or stomachache. Daily activities like walking or climbing stairs can feel extremely difficult. The most severe symptoms can lead to permanent damage or death. Clearly, it is not something to mess with.
But here is the trickiest part: there is no way to train to be at altitude. Some people who are very physically fit have severe altitude sickness. Others, who havenât exercised in years feel fine. The only way to know how you will do is to experience it yourself, and listen to your body.
What You Can Do To Avoid High Altitude Sickness
The most important thing you can do to avoid altitude sickness is to increase your altitude slowly. A good starting point is 10,000 feet. The general rule of thumb is that once youâve acclimated to that (read: feel somewhat normal) you can increase your altitude by 1000 feet per day. That means that if you want to get up to 15,000 feet, you should take 6 days or more to do it.
Hike High, Sleep Low
One common hikersâ saying is to hike high and sleep low. That means that to help acclimate, you can hike up 1000 feet or more during the day, and then descend to sleep at a lower altitude. This will help your body adjust more quickly.
There are several medications you can take to help your body take in more oxygen and adjust to altitude. Your doctor can write you a prescription. On my trip to Mt. Kailash, the guide told us to just take half a pill (about Â¼ a normal does), which was be enough to help us without the negative side effects. For me at least, it worked.
At high altitude, the air is often very dry and it is easy to get dehydrated. This is compounded by the fact that you are breathing more (and thus expiring more) to make up for the lack of oxygen. Aim for at least 3 liters of water a day to prevent dehydration and help your body acclimate.
If you start to lose your appetite, it can be tempting to skip meals. This will only serve to make you feel worse. Try broth-based soups, popcorn, crackers, or anything else that sounds appealing. The food will give your body the strength it needs to compensate for all the extra energy expenditure of breathing more!
Other tips to avoid or reduce high altitude sickness
You can purchase a simple blood oxygen saturation monitor that you can attach to your finger. This will let you know if your body is getting enough oxygen. Generally, you won’t feel great at 80% and less than 70% starts to be a cause for concern. If you are worried, get to a lower altitude and get to a doctor right away. You can buy a simple finger blood oxygen monitor here.
The most important thing with altitude is to listen to your body. Some of my most incredible life experiences were at over 16,000 feet. I didnât adjust overnight, and I couldnât run at that altitude, but I took it slowly and carefully and it was absolutely worth it. If you prepare well, and listen to your body, you will have a great time!
Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor. If you have any questions, please consult your physician. Everything shared in this post is my personal experience and not to be used in place of reliable medical advice.
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