Getting high . . .
Posted by sibylle in skiing (Monday March 17, 2008 at 7:55 pm)

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Especially above 10,000 feet . . .

May cause altitude sickness, as we’ve seen quite a bit in ski school lately.

For skiers visiting Summit County, where we have the nation’s highest ski resorts (Arapahoe Basin, and just across the divide, Loveland) I’ll note some typical symptoms of mild altitude sickness and a few precautions to take.

Symptoms:

1. Headaches
2. Nausea
3. Difficulty sleeping at night

If you experience two or more of these symptoms, or see them in your family members, they could indicate altitude sickness. At this point, the best remedies include going to a lower altitude, drinking lots of liquids, and time.

For persons with severe nausea (vomiting), descending to a lower altitude (from 11,000 feet plus at the summit to around 9,000 feet at the base) will help. Also try to stay well hydrated. At altitude, and especially in the cold winter air, we constantly lose water by breathing.

Don’t confuse mild altitude illness with the more severe forms of altitude sickness such as pulmonary or cerebral edema. I’ve had one student with these, and they put him in the hospital on oxygen overnight and then transported him to Denver, on oxygen, in an ambulance. Both of these potentially fatal ailments require medical care.

When I went on an Everest expedition several years ago, our team physicians gave all the climbers a prescription medication, Diamox, to take as drove to basecamp (on the north side, at 17,000 feet!) and as we progressed up the mountain. I took my Diamox daily and was able to sleep (uncomfortably, and cold, but sleep) on the North Col at 23,000 feet with no sign of headaches.

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