Altitude Sickness

Travelers to Colorado and especially those venturing to the outlying resorts should be aware of acute mountain sickness (AMS) or altitude sickness . This is an ailment affecting certain individuals traveling at high altitude usually above 8,000 feet or 2400 meters. However, as one travels to some ski resorts west of Denver, with some approaching 10,000 feet, altitude sickness can become quite apparent and can have varying degrees of severity .

Vail Resort, CO

These are the most common symptoms to look out for:

  • Difficulty sleeping/Insomnia
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Lack or Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid pulse or heart rate
  • Shortness of breath (breathing is faster and heavier)

Unfortunately, I’ve had to endure the discomfort and suffered from symptoms the last couple of times we went  to Colorado. I felt nauseous, had a headache and suffered from dry mouth and lips within the first few hours of ascent into the ski resorts. Understandably, we were passing through and traveling to resorts over 9,000 feet above sea level. In hindsight, I wish I’d read up more during our first trip and been better prepared instead of browsing the Internet after experiencing these symptoms. 

This last trip was more severe and lasted longer most likely because we went straight from the airport to the resorts instead of spending the night in Denver (the mile high city is about 5,200 feet) to acclimate to the elevation. My 7-year old daughter also complained of headaches and not feeling well this time around when she was fine a few months before.

My sister in-law sufferred from shortness of breath and light-headedness. Oddly enough, the males in our group, including my 4-year old son, did not experience any of these symptoms. The thin air left us winded and gasping for more breaths. It disappeared after a day and after getting acclimated to the elevation.

For us, Tylenol and drinking lots of water was the key. It is advisable to rest with the first signs and stay away from strenous activities(skiing, hiking). According to a pharmacist we consulted, we were told no eating red meat and no cafeinne or alcohol intake but drink lots of water. We were also told to get a ginger supplement. Please pay particular attention to your children for symptoms and keep them hydrated.

Here are some helpful links on altitude sickness:

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