Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)
If I workout and run at home can I still get Altitude Sickness?


Acute Mountain Sickness

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) can affect as much as 20% of adults and children who travel from sea level to above 8,000 feet regardless of their physical condition. At 12,183 feet (the highest point on Trail Ridge Road) there is 35% less oxygen that at sea level and 50% less oxygen at the top of Longs Peak. In addition, symptoms may not appear for 2 to 3 days after arriving in the mountains. Although there are no laboratory tests to identify AMS, useful clinical criteria are the presence of at least three of the following seven possible symptoms:
  • * Headache -- Often reported as fussiness
  • * Nausea or vomiting
  • * Fatigue (ok, so we all get this one)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Anorexia
  *   Most common symptoms!

If symptoms persist or worsen, go to a lower elevation as soon as possible and seek medical attention. The acclimatization process is inhibited by dehydration, over-exertion, and alcohol and other depressant drugs. If you begin to show symptoms of moderate altitude illness, don't go higher until symptoms decrease. "Don't go up until symptoms go down".

Preventing Altitude Sickness

Prevention of altitude illnesses falls into two categories, proper acclimatization and preventive medications. Below are a few basic guidelines for proper acclimatization.
  • If possible, don't fly or drive to high altitude. Start below 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) and walk up. If you do fly or drive, do not over-exert yourself or move higher for the first 24 hours.
  • Eat a high carbohydrate diet (more than 70% of your calories from carbohydrates) while at altitude.
  • Avoid tobacco and alcohol and other depressant drugs including, barbiturates, tranquilizers, and sleeping pills. These depressants further decrease the respiratory drive during sleep resulting in a worsening of the symptoms.
  • Stay properly hydrated. Acclimatization is often accompanied by fluid loss, so you need to drink lots of fluids to remain properly hydrated (at least 3-4 quarts per day).
  • Take it easy; don't over-exert yourself when you first get up to altitude. Light activity during the day is better than sleeping because respiration decreases during sleep, exacerbating the symptoms.
If symptoms increase, go down, down, down!

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