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The Keys to Living Well in the Mountains

6 ways to prevent altitude sickness (and 3 things that won’t)

It doesn’t get much better than a home in the mountains—fresh air, powder snow, aspens and evergreens, the sounds of nature, wildlife sightings—but if you aren’t feeling well enough to properly enjoy the surrounding landscape, a ski getaway or second home in the high country can be entirely discouraging.

Here are six ways to prevent altitude sickness—as well as three things that won’t keep the illness at bay—for you and your loved ones as you set out to relish a wonderful mountain stay.

What works: 

The most important thing to prevent altitude sickness is slow ascent. It takes days to properly acclimatize. Take your time. Before going to 8,000 feet or higher, spend a day or two at 5,000 feet or lower. Then go up 1,000 feet per day. Time is important to all of us; spending time at intermediate altitudes is a slow and expensive process, but it will pay off dividends in the long run, in terms of overall enjoyment and wellness.

Drink a little extra water and avoid dehydrating drinks like alcohol and coffee. Don’t overdo it. Usually 8-12 glasses of water per day are sufficient.

Your first day or two at altitude should be easy. Intense exercise at altitude can bring on altitude sickness, so try to schedule the more aerobic activities for the second half of your stay.

Many sources suggest sleeping at an altitude that is lower than the altitude you were at during the day. For example, if you ski at 9,500 feet during the day, sleep the night before and the night after as low as you can. "Climb high, sleep low" is standard practice for those who spend time at high altitudes.

If you’re having symptoms—whether on a ski lift or hiking above your current altitude etc.—go down at least 1,000 to 2,000 feet.

Consider a controlled oxygen system, which can provide a constant stream of oxygen to your bedroom, reduce effective altitude by 7,000 feet, and restore your body’s normal oxygen saturation. This interrupts the cycle of hypoxia (low oxygen) and prevents altitude sickness altogether. 

What does not work: 

According to Dr. David Grey of Breckenridge's High Altitude Mobile Physicians, there is simply not enough oxygen in these small cans to provide any meaningful relief.

Studies have not shown these to be superior to placebo.

Room oxygenation works well with controllers that calculate to provide enough oxygen to make a physiological impact. But just pumping oxygen into a room is almost always ineffective and can even be dangerous. Without proper computerized control, an oxygenation system cannot meet safety standards, like the National Fire Protection Association standard for fire safe oxygen use.

Larry Kutt is the CEO of Altitude Control Technologiesthe world leader in altitude simulation. Contact Larry at 303.823.8700.

Content for this article provided by Altitude Control Technologies.SaveSave

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