Skin and Hair
This site is provided for informational
purposes only. The information here is not intended to diagnose
or treat any condition, and should not replace the care and attention
of qualified medical personnel. Use the information on these pages
at your own risk, and, as with any information pertaining to health,
nutrition, mental health, or fitness, consult your physician before making any
changes that might affect your overall health.
Breathing in the Mountains
never truly appreciate the ability to breathe until you can't!
Breathing takes on a whole new importance at high altitude,
especially if you have health problems which cause difficulties
to begin with.
I have never had
problems breathing as a rule, until we moved up here. And
even then, it is just under certain conditions. Something
about the environment up here seems to aggravate existing
allergies, and bring on new ones - it may be the sage, the
dust, or some other factor.
Many people who
live in this region develop breathing problems after a time
here. Mostly it is allergy aggravated asthma. Some people
feel it is due to the high aerial spraying that is being done
because of the ozone hole, but nobody knows for sure whether
it is just something with the climate and environment, or
just that any tendency to asthma will come out at higher altitudes
when it did not at lower levels.
Usually, if you
have a tendency to asthma, higher altitude can aggravate it.
There are other times also when you need to be watchful for
- When you are ascending
into an altitude that you are not accustomed to. Go slowly,
because your body takes time to adjust.
- During exertion. Exercise
demands more air, so problems will become more pronounced.
If you intend to go hiking at a significantly higher altitude
than you normally live at, then be prepared to slow down!
- In extreme cold. Since
temperatures in winter and at night tend to be much colder
higher up, this is more of an issue than you may realize.
And it is easy to get out a little way from your house
or other shelter, and get into trouble fast. Cold induced
asthma can come on very suddenly, and after you have been
out a while - I have experienced this - and it can
all but rob you of the ability to even gasp for breath.
Find a way to warm the air you are breathing.
- When pollens are high.
At higher altitudes there seem to be fewer of these, but
some of them are pretty pervasive when they do happen.
Stay out of high pollen areas if this is a problem for
you, or wear a dust mask.
- If you have sleep apnea.
If you move from a lower area to a higher one, you may
need to have your breathing equipment adjusted to compensate
for the lower room air pressure.
- If you use any kind of
assisted breathing equipment. Changing altitudes may necessitate
adjustments to the equipment. Talk to your doctor before
you make the change, or before you make a trip into a high
altitude area if you or a family member are vent dependent
or oxygen dependent.
Most of the time,
breathing issues at high altitude are momentary. They can
be corrected by reversal of whatever brought it on - slow
down, move lower down, warm up, etc. They are not usually
life threatening to people in good health unless you ignore
warning signs that you are in trouble.
It can be rather
shocking to a person who has always enjoyed good health to
suddenly find themselves gasping for breath, and unable to
get enough air. If you have never felt this feeling, you cannot
possibly understand how utterly terrifying it is, or how important
it is to recognize when it is getting hard to breathe, and
to react quickly so it does not get extremely bad. It is essential
that you identify the cause quickly, and remove the cause
if at all possible.
Most people who
move up to 6000 ft will not notice much of a difference, other
than a greater than usual tendency to fatigue during the first
week or two. Higher up though, can produce a more noticeable
Editorial Comments throughout this site written by Laura Wheeler (with occasional sarcastic remarks by her son, David). Laura is a 10 year resident of Medicine Bow, Wyoming, where the altitude is greater than the population. Medicine Bow is at 6200+ ft above sea level, and boasts a total of 297 residents from the last census. Laura is an experienced technical, health and family writer.