~Take My Breath Away!~
You already know about AA, AAA, ABC, ADT and so on. If you’re going to the mountains, you might want to add AMS. It stands for Acute Mountain Sickness or more commonly, Altitude Sickness.You say, why are you bringing up sickness when I’m going on the trip of a lifetime – isn’t that just bad karma? Think of it as a vaccination – sort of like a trip into the Amazon jungles. You wouldn’t think of going there without, say… thirty or more shots, would you? So if you’re going to the high altitudes, why not prevent sickness!
~What Causes Altitude Sickness?~
Mountain scenes are indeed breathtaking. As you reach higher altitudes, barometric pressure decreases so every breath you take contains fewer molecules of oxygen causing you to take more breaths to get the oxygen you need. Of course this happens when you exert yourself walking up any hill, but at low altitudes, the shortness of breath usually resolves itself soon after you rest. Not so in a high altitude.
As the amount of oxygen in your lungs decreases, the blood becomes less and less efficient at acquiring and transporting oxygen, so no matter how many breaths you take, you are unlikely to attain a normal blood level of oxygen. It takes your brain a few days to figure out it has to breathe more. Although everyone reacts differently, anybody can get AMS, even those who are physically fit, with lots of high altitude experience, young or old, male or female.
~The Easiest Way to Prevent Altitude Sickness~
The most common reason for getting AMS is directly related to how quickly you ascend, so if you plan to go high, your best guarantee is to go slow. If that’s not possible, at least know the symptoms and what to do, and you should be able to feel better quickly and avoid the severe, life-threatening forms. Drink lots of liquids, exercise moderately, eat small meals high in carbohydrates and low in fat and take a few herbs.
Other important steps to take include avoiding alcohol, sleeping pills and narcotic pain medications in more than modest doses.
~Medical Definitions of Altitude~
- High Altitude: 5000 – 11500 ft
- Very High Altitude: 11500 – 18000 ft
- Extreme Altitude: Above 18,000 ft.
~Signals that your brain hasn’t caught on yet that you’re not at sea level~
- Fatigue or weakness
- Loss of appetite
~How to decrease the effects of AMS~
Ascend slowly and let yourself acclimate to each altitude. Drink plenty of fluids – water and juice. Avoid alcohol. Minimize caffeine intake. Decrease salt. Eat a low fat, high carbohydrate diet. DESCEND! (But only if its really bad).
~What the Doctor Says~
According to Dr. Lynne Drakos, acupuncturist and doctor of Oriental Medicine, a must for altitude adjustment is Siberian Ginseng. She also suggests eating foods high in iron, including molasses, green leafy vegetables, beets and red meat for the moisturizing value they give the body.
We have found taking doses of antioxidants seems to help also.
About the author:
Janet James publishes the online travel series, FunTripsLIVE.com which includes a special series on Colorado, Cabo San Lucas, New Orleans Christmas, Santa Fe and the California Riviera.
If you enjoyed this article, and would like to learn more about high altitude experiences such as what to wear, how to prepare for winter driving and how to cook in high altitudes, visit http://www.funtripslive.com/co_ski_country.
Written by: Janet James