TOP 5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ALTITUDE SICKNESS
5 full years of leading expeditions in South America at high altitude without any problems and then one day it took me down.
Altitude sickness, also know as mountain sickness is not just one, but a group of symptoms that can affect you if you, walk, climb or hike to a higher elevation too quickly.
WHY IT HAPPENS
The pressure of the air that surrounds you is called barometric pressure. When you go to higher altitudes, this pressure drops and there is less oxygen available.
If you live in a place that’s located at a moderately high altitude, you get used to the air pressure. But if you travel to a place at a higher altitude than you’re used to, your body will need time to adjust to the change in pressure.
Any time you go above 8,000 feet, you can be at risk for altitude sickness.
Signs & symptoms - what to look out for
Symptoms of altitude sickness don't usually develop immediately so be mindful of just checking in with yourself during the first 36 hours at altitude, early, mild symptoms are similar to that of a hangover and you may experience the following:
Loss of appetite
Fatigue, flu like symptoms
Poor sleep and irregular breathing during sleep
I've hiked the Inca Trail 8 times (yes, it's amazing), spent a lot of time in the altiplano in Bolivia and led expeditions across the Atacama dessert into Chile, here's what I want you to know about traveling at high altitude, I really hope it helps...
REMEMBER TO CHECK IN WITH YOURSELF
I'm only speaking from personal experience here but I've seen extremely fit athletes get very sick very quickly at high altitudes, I've also seen very unfit and overweight people have absolutely no problems at all.
The lesson here is that it's unlikely your level of fitness plays any real role in how your body will react to high altitudes so just remember to check in with yourself every now and again.
PLEASE LISTEN TO YOUR LOCAL GUIDES
This maybe one of the most important steps, if you take nothing else away with you from this article, please listen to your local guides! A good local guide will be able to tell faster than you will you will if you're struggling, if they feel it's better for you (and the rest of the group possibly) to stop or turn around go back then it's so important that you listen to their guidance, they know their stuff and your safety is their first priority.
TAKE IT SLOWLY
Rushing around and expecting to be able to do things at a pace your used to is a big mistake and if you're competitive by nature then you'll need to do something to surpass ego on your next big high altitude expedition.
Walk, hike, bike and move around at a relaxed pace until your body get's accustomed to your environnment.
GO EASY ON THE BOOZE
I've seen this ruin people's trip. You're on holiday, you're all excited about your next big adventure and have a few too many drinks, feel less than ok the next day but blame it on the cocktails. Mild symptoms of altitude sickness are very similar to having a hangover and if you're not sure which is which you're not doing yourself any favours and could seriously put your health at risk.
MEDICATE WHEN NECESSARY
There are pre- altitude medications available and ultimately it's up to you whether its something you decide to do or not but I like to leave my body to it's own devices and only medicate when it's totally necessary. Definitely seek medical advice in your destination if you're experiencing severe altitude sickness symptoms.
Are you planning on any high altitude adventures this year? Leave a comment below and let me know.
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