5 Helpful Hints for Acclimatization from Griggs Orthopedics
Outdoor enthusiasts flock to Crested Butte with dreams of steep terrain, but it can take our bodies a little longer to acclimatize than our minds would like. Altitude sickness, also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), is a concern for individuals that move rapidly from low elevations to above 8000ft, though it has been shown to occur as low as 6000ft. The town of Crested Butte sits at 8885ft, making AMS a health consideration for many visitors traveling from lower elevations, especially those at or near sea-level. But don’t fear, with a little planning and preparation you can make sure to enjoy your vacation while breathing easier on those steeps!
1. Pace Yourself
Climbers at altitude try to move up in elevation as slowly as possible; similarly, moving up slowly while traveling can be helpful for acclimatization. If you can take a night to stay in an intermediate city such as Denver on the way from sea-level, it can benefit your body in the long run. Once in the Butte, it might be best to spend the first day hanging out at a lower elevation instead of skiing the steeps. Try not to overexert yourself for the first few days, though light exercise won't hurt if you feel up to it.
The physiological changes in the body at altitude prime it for dehydration, so it is necessary to stay on top of water consumption. A general rule would be to shoot for around 4 liters of water per day while at altitude for an adult, and to make sure you are well hydrated while traveling. It is an inconvenience to use the bathroom every 2-3 hours while driving or flying, but not as bad as losing a week of vacation to altitude sickness.
3. Rest and Recover
The first day at altitude can be difficult for some, and painless for others. It may be best to take it easy and hydrate no matter how good you are feeling. Make sure to get a full night's rest as this is the time when your body recovers. Try to eat well, and stay away from foods that dehydrate the body, such as overly salty or sugary foods. Similarly, stay away from drinks that accelerate dehydration, including sodas, drinks high in caffeine, and yes, alcohol. Save the happy hour for later in the trip!
4. Watch for Signs and Symptoms of AMS
Even travelers that are proactive with hydration and rest can find that they are experiencing AMS. Some common symptoms are: shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, lethargy, decreased appetite, nausea, fever, and sleeplessness. It is normal to have a few of these mild symptoms, and they will usually dissipate after 1-4 days if managed appropriately. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, try to take it easy, stay out of hot tubs and saunas, and stay rested and hydrated.
5. If Needed, Descend or See a Doctor
If mild symptoms worsen, or do not improve after a couple days of rest, you need to descend in elevation. A day exploring Gunnison may be all that's needed to get you back to skiing in Crested Butte. If symptoms become acute and begin to include a high fever, painful cough, breathlessness, severe headache, vomiting and confusion, descend immediately and head to the emergency room, these are signs of AMS becoming a more serious type of altitude sickness. When in doubt, the golden rules are:
- If you feel bad at altitude, you have altitude sickness until proven otherwise.
- Do not ascend further if you have symptoms of altitude sickness.
- If your symptoms are getting worse, descend immediately.
gO have fun and have a safe and healthy vacation!