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Health at High Altitude

Health at High Altitude

Life at high altitude is a little different. Many of the differences are small, but some of them are major, and potentially life threatening.

People may feel effects of higher altitudes at 4000 ft above sea level. Usually by 6000 ft, they will experience more fatigue, and a greater potential for dehydration.

The effects tend to increase exponentially as altitude increases. Altitude affects individuals differently.
As you ascend to higher altitudes, atmospheric pressure decreases, the air is thinner and less oxygen is available. It is also colder, drier and the ultraviolet rays from the sun are stronger. Each of these changes may have unpleasant effects on your body.

Above 8000 feet, altitude illness affects 20 to 30% of visitors. The extent to which you are affected depends on how quickly you ascend, what elevation you attain, how hard you exercise, what you eat and drink and what health problems you may have. People with existing health problems or reduced fitness may feel the effects at a much lower height than those who are more physically able.
After arriving at high altitude, you will probably notice that your breathing is faster and/or deeper, and you may feel short of breath. This is the body's first response to higher elevation. In addition your heart is likely to beat faster and you may develop nausea, unusual tiredness, headache, or have difficulty sleeping.

A wet cough, increasing shortness of breath or the feeling of fluid collecting in your lungs may signal a more serious condition called High Altitude Pulmonary Edema which requires immediate medical attention.
Once you arrive at a high altitude location, take it easy for the first day or two. Listen to your body! Do not push the limits of your physical capabilities. If you feel worse, seek medical attention! Minor altitude illness symptoms can become life threatening when neglected.

Sun injury - At high altitude the ultraviolet rays from the sun are more intense and therefore more damaging. Even when it is cloudy the risk of sunburn is extreme.

Cold injury - The air temperature falls about three degrees Fahrenheit for every 1000 feet of elevation gain.

Hypothermia (low body temperature) can occur when you are wet, chilled, fatigued or dressed inappropriately; even during warm weather. Warning signs are confusion, difficulty speaking, irritability and loss of coordination.

Frostbite is caused by cold exposure resulting in ice crystals forming in the skin. It frequently occurs in the extremities, specifically the nose, ears, fingers and toes. The skin becomes numb, firm and yellowish white in color. Re-warming causes tingling and pain with skin color changes and blisters occurring in severe cases.

Health Tips at High Altitudes -

• Increase Fluid Intake
• Decrease Salt Intake
• Moderate Your Physical Activity
• Eat High Carbohydrate, Low Fat Meals
• Reduce Alcohol and Caffeine Intake
• Feeling Worse? Seek Help

Prevent Sunburn:

• Use Sunscreen (SPF 15-30)
• Always Wear Sun Glasses or Goggles

Prevent Cold Injury :

• Dress in Layers
• Take Extra Clothes for Sudden Temperature Changes
• Wear Properly Fitting Boots and Gloves
• Avoid Wet Clothing
• Drink and Eat Frequently
• Stop to Warm Up Often
• Watch Each Other For Warning Signs


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