Tips for High Altitude Trips

Safety Tips for High Altitude Trips

Literally taking the high road and moving up will involve a lot of environmental changes due to altitude. Whether it’s for a short trip or an extended stay, you’ll need to make a few changes to adjust to living high.

Climb Slowly

If you can choose whether to drive or fly, choose to drive. Driving gives your body more time to gradually adjust to changes in barometric pressure; flying just drops you off and you feel the environmental changes in altitude all at once. Adjusting to pressure gradually limits the effect of altitude and lowers your chances of getting altitude sickness. The Denver Nuggets (at 5,000 feet) and the Utah Jazz (at 4,000 feet) perform so well in home games because the opposing team flies in and gets thumped by the sudden altitude change, hampering their performance and even getting a few players sick.

Slow Things Down

While driving can let your body adjust to the pressure and stave off altitude sickness, the thinner oxygen will still be an issue. Expect your endurance to drop in the first few weeks, and the dry air might cause minor sinus problems. Children and seniors might be more vulnerable to the dry air, but humidifiers (swamp coolers) or saline sprays might do the trick. Give your body time to adjust to the thin, dry air, but don’t hesitate to see a specialist if you feel like something is off.

Drink Lots of Water

You’ll need to increase your water consumption by 30-50 percent once you reach high altitudes. Living high up will usually result in more trips to the bathroom, faster breathing, and exposure to drier air. These factors can leave you dehydrated without you noticing it. High altitude and cold weather also suppress your body’s thirst sensors by up to 40 percent, making you believe you don’t need to drink even if your body is parched. This phenomenon is not limited to people as even your pets will tend to drink less even as they pee more.

Watch Out for the Sun

Colorado and Utah have the highest rates of melanomas and skin cancer in the entire USA, primarily due to elevation. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun gets exceedingly more concentrated with every 1,000 feet of elevation. UV concentration goes up by 6-8 percent for every 1,000 feet of elevation, exposing cities like Salt Lake City (4,000 feet) and Denver (5,000 feet) to higher levels of UV. Avoid going out when the sun is at its peak or when the UV index notes high concentrations. Wear protective clothing and apply sunscreen. If you can’t avoid the sun, at least block the effects of UV. Any exposure increases your risk of developing cancer, even the few minutes driving or lounging at home. Apply UV filtering film to the glass windows and doors of your house and do the same thing for your vehicles.

Sinus issues, dehydration, skin cancer — living high has its downsides, but making a few adjustments can quickly solve these problems.