Altitude sickness

High Altitude Health Hints
Most visitors to this area will not be affected by illness. However, altitude, water, sun and temperature changesmay cause some discomfort.
Here are some tips to help you prepare and stay healthy in the mountains: Preparation for Coming to High Altitude
If you can come rested, that seems to help. For sure, stay well-hydrated during your travel to altitude, and for
the first few days at altitude. Also, do not exert yourself strenuously for the first 24-48 hours. So, don’t plan to
go running or exercising when you first get there.
For those of you who have a prior history of problems with altitude sickness, you may want to check with yourdoctor beforehand. There is a prescription medication available (called Diamox, or acetazolamide) that can helpsome people, but it must be taken 1-2 days before you travel in order to help.
High Altitude Sickness
Elevations in the Upper Arkansas Valley vary from 7,000 feet in Salida and Buena Vista to over 14,000 feet at
many of the area’s mountain peaks. The elevation in the Winter Park area varies between 9,000 and 12,000 feet.
The higher the altitude, the less oxygen there is in the air. Some people have a negative reaction to the decrease
in oxygen. Symptoms for high altitude sickness usually last one to two days and may include nausea, headache,
loss of appetite, insomnia, or lethargy. Severe cases may include vomiting, coughing, anddizziness.
Treatment includes frequent resting, doing recreational activities at a lower altitude the first day of your stay,eating lightly, drinking more water and electrolyte replacement drinks such as gatorade and decreasingsmoking. Aspirin or Acetaminophen may help symptoms. Alcohol should be avoided, as it may intensifysymptoms. Contact a physician if breathing becomes difficult, headache continues and is accompanied bymental disturbances, coughing begins, or walking becomes staggered.
Altitude Effects on Medical Conditions
Individuals with chronic lung or heart disease may be affected adversely by the altitude. The decrease in
oxygen that occurs at higher altitude alters body functions, making it difficult to breathe and forcing the heart to
work harder. Individuals should avoid overexertion by moving at a slower pace. You may want to consult your
physician before traveling to higher altitude.
Altitude Effects on Alcohol and Medication
Alcohol and barbiturates should be used with caution, as their effect is increased at a higher altitude. Individuals
taking anticoagulants (blood thinners) also may have increased effect and may require prothrombin times/
bleeding times to be checked. Strong diuretics may cause blood pressure to fall, resulting in fainting or
The cause of swelling is unknown, but typically goes away on its own several days after returning to a lower
altitude. Diuretics and a low-salt diet also reduce swelling.
The combination of dry mountain air and increased respiratory rate, due to the lower oxygen level at this
altitude, may lead to a greater loss of body moisture. Drink at least six to eight glasses of water each day. Be
aware that alcohol consumption can increase the chance of dehydration.
Dehydration and low humidity may dry the membranes of the nose and cause nosebleeds. If you get anosebleed, pinch the nose together for at least five minutes.
At this altitude there is less atmosphere to block the sun’s rays, so sunburns occur more often. Snow and water
reflect the sun and intensify the effect. Apply sunblock every two hours.
You may be tempted to drink water from the crystal clear lakes and creeks in the mountains, but don’t do it. Be
aware that these bodies of water contain an intestinal parasite called Giardia lamblia. This parasite causes
diarrhea, nausea, cramping, fever, and chills. Symptoms may not appear until you return home. Giardia requires
medical treatment.
Hypothermia may result from being in cold water or in a cold environment for an extended time. Our rivers and
creeks include snow run-off which is very cold. Cold water cools the body temperature 32 times faster than the
air. Summer weather can change quickly from warm to cold conditions. Be sure to take warm clothes and dress
in layers. Risk of hypothermia increases with injury, alcohol/drug consumption, and for all children and seniors.
Victims of hypothermia may be confused; attempt to reorient the person. Rewarm the victim by removing wetgarments and replacing with dry garments. Cover the victim with blankets. A rescuer may lie alongside thevictim underneath the covers to assist in rewarming. The victim should be moved gently. If the victim is non-responsive, immediately transport to the nearest hospital. If breathing stops, perform CPR.
Drowning/Near Drowning
The Arkansas River may be more treacherous than it appears. A drowning or near drowning victim needs to be
reached and removed from the water as soon as possible. It is important for the rescuer to use caution to ensure
his/her own safety, call for rescue help if you cannot rescue the person safely. Resuscitation should be started
immediately, if needed.


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