Skiing is Peak Time for Altitude Sickness

Expert offers tips on reducing the risk

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SUNDAY, Nov. 27, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Folks planning a holiday ski junket should take steps to ward off altitude sickness, according to an expert at the University of Colorado.

Rapid ascent, combined with rigorous physical activity, can trigger the condition.

"If you are not exerting yourself, you may not feel any symptoms, especially if you are going up quickly and coming down quickly. Most people who drive through the Rockies may not feel any symptoms," Dr. Vaughn Browne, an emergency physician at University of Colorado Hospital and an associated professor at the CU School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

However, people from lower altitude areas who are going to spend time in the mountains need to acclimatize themselves to the thinner air and lower oxygen levels of high elevations before they hit the ski slopes or do other activities.

"It's important the first day at altitude to adjust by doing light to moderate exercise. Even if they are aerobically trained, they still need time to adapt to altitude," Browne said.

He also recommended that skiers:

  • Go Slow. When traveling at altitudes 10,000 feet or higher, do not ascend more than 2,000 feet over a 24-hour period.
  • Hydrate. Drink plenty of water. Adequate hydration is critical for people traveling to higher elevations.
  • Eat less. Consume smaller, carbohydrate-rich meals and limit fat and protein intake. Avoid alcohol.
  • Watch for symptoms. Individuals at a high altitude who experience serious symptoms such as severe headache, decreased levels of consciousness, unsteady gait, repeated vomiting or seizures, should immediately descend to a lower altitude and seek immediate medical help.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about altitude sickness.

SOURCE: University of Colorado at Denver, news release, Nov. 2, 2005

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