Altitude Sickness Is Real in Frisco, Colorado: Know What to Do before It Does You In

Posted by: admin February 4th, 2015

hiking-at-altitudeVisiting the Colorado high country can be both beautiful and dangerous at the same time. No, I am not talking about avalanche danger (though that is a valid concern), but instead, the effect that the extreme altitude can have on your body. Even if you run 10 miles a day and consider yourself to be in tip-top shape, the altitude can, and will, get to you unless you know how to combat altitude sickness and/or avoid getting it in the first place.

First off, let me start out by saying that it happens to the best of us. Don’t be ashamed if you come down with a case of altitude sickness when visiting our Frisco hotel … we are located at an elevation of 9,075 feet. And, that’s just in town … add a bunch more if you are traversing any of the mountain peaks in Summit County. With that being said, altitude sickness is not an urban myth, it is very real and can afflict anyone regardless of age or fitness level. So, what causes it, what are the symptoms, and how can you treat it and/or not get it in the first place?

Causes of Altitude Sickness (Watch the video here)

The air is much thinner at high altitudes and when you go too high too fast, you body is not able to get as much oxygen as it needs. Therefore, you need to breathe faster which will cause a headache or some of the other symptoms listed below.

High-altitudeSymptoms of Altitude Sickness

If you suffer from any of the following symptoms while visiting the high country, there’s a good chance you have altitude sickness; shortness of breath, fatigue, headache, a rapid pulse, diarrhea, dizziness or light-headedness, pins and needles, insomnia, nausea or vomiting, and loss of appetite. Be sure not to pass any of this as the flu or a simple hangover, as the treatments for each is very different. Speaking of treatment … how do you avoid getting altitude sickness?

Avoiding Altitude Sickness

The following is a list of the most tried and true ways to avoid coming down with a case of altitude sickness. Remember, though, even if you do all of these things it is still possible to get sick.

Enter slowly. The most common method to avoid getting altitude sickness is to enter into it slowly if you can. Spend a night or two at slightly lower elevations such as Denver to help you acclimate. Though Denver is at 5,280 feet, this is still roughly half the elevation of Frisco, Colorado. If you cannot acclimate at a slightly lower elevation, don’t head to the top of the mountains right away. Start with some relatively easier (lower elevation) hikes, ski runs etc. and gradually work your way to the top from there.

Hydration is a must. Because of the thinner air at our extreme altitude, drink at least a liter more of water and/or sports drinks than would on any normal day.

Keep your alcohol content to a minimum. Alcohol decreases the amount of oxygen in your blood, so hydrate with water and/or a sports drink between each beer or cocktail. Also avoid using sleeping agents of the benzodiazepine family since they suppress breathing and result in lower blood oxygen.

Start your day out right. Eat a well-rounded breakfast and stick to a low fat, low sodium diet with plenty of carbohydrates during your entire stay in the mountains.

AltitudeTreating Altitude Sickness

Sometimes taking all of the aforementioned preventative measures is simply not enough – you can’t really argue with what your body tells you. So, if you do experience any of the symptoms mentioned above – and it is not the flu or a hangover – head to one of the many oxygen bars around Summit County. The number one remedy for treating altitude sickness is oxygen! Sure, you could head to a lower elevation and let Mother Nature do her work, but why would you want to ruin your vacation when you can oxygenate right where you are? There is the O2 Lounge, Breckenridge Oxygen Bar, and AlpinAire Healthcare in Breckenridge, Summit Oxygen in Dillon, and a company that delivers portable oxygen units right to your door – Alpine Oxygen.

Other remedies include over-the-counter pain relievers that can help ease altitude sickness-related headaches, moving to a lower elevation (as mentioned above), wait it out (if your symptoms are mild), and calling your doctor (certain prescription meds can help relieve the symptoms).

Remember, though, that extreme altitude sickness can result in fatal conditions like pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), and high altitude cerebral edema (swelling of the brain), so this is not something to take lightly. When this happens, one might show symptoms of being confused, not being able to walk straight, feeling faint, and having gray or blue lips/fingernails.

Altitude Myths Debunked

Drinking Coffee at altitude is bad. Not necessarily true. The concern here would be that coffee has the potential to dehydrate you and contribute to altitude sickness, but unless you drink pots upon pots of coffee a day (and little else), you should be fine. Caffeine actually stimulates the brain, kidneys, and breathing – all of which can help you at altitude.

I am in good shape, so my fitness will protect me against altitude sickness. False. Physical fitness will offer you no protection from altitude sickness. Everyone, regardless of his or her fitness level, is susceptible to this.

Drinking extra water will stop altitude sickness. While staying hydrated is important, too much water can actually be harmful and possibly dilute your bodies’ sodium levels causing confusion, seizures, weakness, and a possible coma. You really only need an extra liter a day at altitude.

Children are more susceptible. A wide variety of studies have been performed that have shown similar occurrences of altitude illness in children and adults.

Remember to listen to what you body is telling you. The majority of altitude sickness cases are mild, but they often can be serious too. Know the causes, symptoms, and treatments to make your stay at our Frisco bed and breakfast the most comfortable it can be. Leave the rest to us!