Can you imagine? You’ve planned your vacation. You’ve gone through the hassle of packing your stuff and your kids’ stuff (hopefully your spouse can pack for him or herself). You’ve arranged and prebought tickets, lessons, lodging and you’ve either loaded the car or you’ve schlepped through security at the airport. You’re on holiday!
And then, you arrive in the Rockies and you get sick. Do you have a cold? Or altitude sickness?
With mild, typical altitude sickness here’s what you may experience:
Headache, weakness/exhaustion, loss of appetite, dizziness and fitful sleeping.
You might feel great the first day in the mountains and then get sick on day two or three. In many cases you may be able to power through, but when you (or your kids) become too uncomfortable the ski vacation starts washing out.
Why Does Altitude Do This?
Altitude sickness occurs when you gain altitude too quickly. For example, when you fly from sea level to an airport above 8,000 feet. Even flying into Denver and then immediately driving to your destination high in the Colorado Rockies may trigger symptoms.
As I’m sure you know, there is less oxygen at higher altitudes. Until your body adjusts, it can’t get the oxygen it needs. Luckily after a few days, most people acclimatize.
What the Experts Recommend
According to WebMD, if you get sick the best treatment is to descend to a lower altitude for a few days. If that’s unrealistic, and your symptoms are mild, rest and limited activity are recommended.
Drink a lot of water, no alcohol and take plenty of over-the-counter pain medications for headaches. If your symptoms are moderate to severe, get help. If your symptoms get worse (inability to walk in a straight line, confusion) get help. Altitude sickness can be serious.
How To Prevent Altitude Sickness
If you are going to an altitude above 8,000 feet, try to spend a night at a lower altitude before going higher. For example, stop one night in Denver or Salt Lake before heading up to the resort. This can make a huge difference.
Drink a lot of water. Staying hydrated is especially important in the dry Rocky Mountain climate. Drink water and then drink some more. Make sure your kids are drinking a lot of water too. Drink water before you leave home and drink en route. Ski with a camelbak or take water breaks during the day. Make your own recovery drink with Emergen-C or a product like Acli-Mate which is specifically formulated to help fight the effects of altitude.
Eat a lot of carbs. Breads, cereal, grains, pasta, but probably not beer, at least for the first couple of days.
Sleep lower than you ski. While that VRBO home high above Telluride Mountain Village might indeed have gorgeous views, sleeping over 10,000 feet may not be the best idea. (True story, we have friends with just such a home. They bought an oxygen concentrator for their guests to use. Most VRBO homes probably don’t provide the concentrator.)
My Advice: Humidify
Despite being Colorado natives and living at a moderately high altitude, we’ve all had altitude sickness. Sometimes, just going up a few thousand feet can trigger it.
So, in addition to the above advice, I also recommend using the humidifier in your condo, home or hotel room. You know, the one that sits in the closet and takes up the space where you’d like to put your ski boots. While not every accommodation has humidifiers, more and more do. If you can’t find one in your room, ask. Chances are the front desk has them stocked.
We so believe in the power of the humidifier that when our boys were ski racing and we spent every weekend at a different resort, a plastic reservoir humidifier was as essential as the skis and the waxing table.
While a humidifier may not completely stave off altitude sickness (the caveats to avoid exertion and alcohol are valid, if perhaps unrealistic, on a ski vacation), it can’t hurt. And if one of you comes down with a cold, you’ve got the humidifier ready to go for that ailment as well.
I am certain that when the Eucerin team included a humidifier in this month’s prize pack, they were thinking in terms of dry skin, not altitude sickness. And yes, the winter months, especially in the Rockies, will make your fingers and heels crack. It’s that dry. Adding humidity definitely helps. So does using a good, thick moisturizer and, if you do winter sports, being careful with the handwarmers. I try to never use them directly against my skin.
In addition to a Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier and Vapo Steam, one giveaway winner will receive Eucerin Calming Creme (love it! A thick moisturizer that rubs in and is good for the entire body); Eucerin Plus Intensive Repair Hand Creme (perfect to rub on hands and feet just before bed to prevent cracking); and Eucerin Calming Body Wash (I was using this product before I started working with Eucerin. It leaves your skin moisturized, but not oily. Because it doesn’t foam very much, it is tempting to use more than you need. Don’t! It’s too precious to waste!)
To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment here with your suggestions for beating dry skin and/or altitude sickness this winter! For an additional entry, copy your comment on the Eucerin Facebook page.
One winner will be chosen in a random drawing on Friday, November 18th at 8:00 a.m. MST. Good luck!
I am very happy to be working with Eucerin as part of their Skin First Blogger Network. As part of this effort, Eucerin provides me with skin care information, as well as skin care and wellness products. They also provide giveaways to my readers. This month, I will receive the same prize pack as the giveaway winner. Occasionally, Eucerin also offers me prizes for creative blogs and for completing a series of goals.
All opinions expressed in this post are my own and reflect exactly what I would tell my friends and family.
This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Colleen!
**Source: Hackett PH (2004). High-altitude medical problems. In JE Tintinalli et al., eds., Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide, 6th ed., pp. 1263-1271. New York: McGraw-Hill.
© 2011, Kristen Lummis. All rights reserved. Any use or publication of content, including photos, requires express permission.