Rocky Mountain Area Information

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Health Effects of High Altitude

At the high altitude of Colorado Mountains everyone is affected to some degree. As you go to the higher altitudes, the barometric pressure decreases, the air is thinner and less oxygen is available. At elevations of 8,000 plus feet many symptoms may occur including: breathing faster and more deeply which results in shortness of breath and exertion, headache, nausea, trouble sleeping and unusual tiredness (this is more commonly referred to as AMS or acute mountain sickness). These symptoms should go away in a day or two. If symptoms persist or worsen a physician should be consulted. Even a short visit to the doctor can save the rest of your trip.

A more serious condition is called HAPE or high altitude pulmonary edema, recognized by a wet cough, increasing shortness of breath and a feeling of fluid building up in the lungs. Other signs to watch out for are disorientation and confusion. If any of these symptoms occur, seek medical attention immediately. HAPE is easy to treat but left untreated can be life threatening.

  • Increase fluid intake- 2 or 3 times normal intake: water and juice are best, hydration is key to preventing AMS and HAPE, drink enough to urinate every two hours.
  • Avoid alcohol and minimize caffeine on arrival and a couple days after. Remember, you may be much more sensitive to the effects of alcohol at a higher altitude, please be very careful.
  • Decrease salt intake as salt causes your body to retain fluids, increasing the severity of altitude illness.
  • Eat frequent small meals high in carbs, low in fat and low in protein.
  • Maintain moderate physical activity and get plenty of rest. Medications and oxygen can help you feel better. Diamox is a prescription drug that prevents the unpleasant symptoms for many people. Recent experience suggests that a small dose of Diamox will suffice (125 mg).
  • The retreat has an aromatherapy oxygen treatment that will restore you back to where you were before you had any effects.