Prepare for High Altitude When Visiting Red River

High Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness is when your body doesn’t have time to adjust to lower oxygen availability at higher elevations. It happens when people who are not used to high altitudes go quickly from low altitude to 8000 feet above sea level or higher. It can be prevented and is treatable. Recognizing the symptoms early on can help you treat them before they get worse.

How Altitude Affects Your Body

As blood pumps through our veins, it takes oxygen that we breathe into our muscles to help them work. The higher in elevation we take our bodies, the harder it is for our body to absorb oxygen. The less oxygen we have to breathe, the harder our muscles have to work. This is why skiing or even walking up the stairs in high altitudes can be difficult. When our muscles have to work harder, other systems slow down. 

Symptoms and Causes of Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness can cause symptoms, and they can vary depending on the severity. The symptoms of altitude sickness usually appear within the first few hours to a day or so after arrival. Here are some symptoms you should look for.

  • Headache (the most common symptom)
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Dizziness
  • Vision changes (rare, but indicate a more severe case of altitude sickness. This is due to blood vessel ruptures in your retinas).

The result of traveling to higher elevations without enough time to adapt is altitude sickness. Anyone is susceptible to altitude sickness or “mountain sickness,” no matter how fit, young, or healthy they are. 

Treatment of Altitude Sickness

The best way to “cure” altitude sickness is to travel to a lower elevation. There are other options when descending isn’t an option. Supplementing oxygen, or breathing higher concentrations of oxygen, can help offset the symptoms. Canned oxygen can be purchased at Der Markt, the grocery store in Red River. Altitude sickness medicines can also be found in town and help those who may need something to kick-start the process. 

The amount of water you drink while in the mountains should be increased. Starting to hydrate a day or two before you arrive will also help.  You want to drink 3-4 liters of water every day to keep yourself from becoming dehydrated. Be mindful when you go out for an alcoholic drink while in a higher elevation. Since the air pressure is lower in higher elevations, your body absorbs alcohol faster, making you feel drunk faster and earlier than you usually would.

Your stomach is likely to struggle the first couple of days, so treat it with respect. Eat lightly and try to stay away from greasy and heavy foods until you have adjusted.

Prevention of Altitude Sickness

This sickness can be prevented, but it is not 100% guaranteed that you will not get sick when traveling to higher altitudes. By taking your time and ascending slowly, your body can adapt to the altitude change as you travel. Once you are at your destination, it is a good idea to take a day to rest, so that you can acclimate to the new altitude. Increasing your water intake days before you begin your travel to higher altitudes can help prevent you from getting sick as well.

Many people never have problems with altitude sickness. You never know if you will become sick or not, so come prepared, take precautions, and give your body a fighting chance to do well during your stay in the mountains.

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