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High Altitude sickness

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
After many years of skiing Colorado I ran into a little problem last spring at Copper. I came down with High Altitude Sickness. I was drinking plenty and spent a few days in Boulder before heading up. Anyway I am heading up to Winter Park for Christmas and am wondering if there is anything new on the prevention dept?
post #2 of 23
Diamox. I found it to be a miracle drug, but be careful, some people cannot handle it at all. If you are allergic to sulpha drugs, you probably cannot take it. Good luck!
post #3 of 23
How do you identify high altitude sickness?
post #4 of 23
Did you just get dizzy and nauseaus or actually begin to show signs of an edimea?
post #5 of 23
Each person is different, but usualy the sick part begins first.
MIGRANE type head ache, usualy from reduced oxygen is one that creeps up first for me.
Also some body aches may come on first. Sluggishness and or diarehea, and of coures regurgitation.
I love a good walk at 19,000 ft!
Endima is the final test, if you make it through the first WARNINGS or if you have climitized properly you still have a chance for endima shlould you NOT be totaly well. A small bug or infection can increase you chance of getting it even after you make it past the other situations.
Or if you have had it previoiusly it can increase your chance.
post #6 of 23

I am not lying, a breakthrough in HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) prevention has been announced. I read it in this month's Skiing Magazine: VIAGRA. It seems that the enzyme which causes an inhibition in blood flow is gobbled up by Viagra. This same action, which has Bob Dole all excited will also help increase pulmonary blood flow, ergo: no HAPE. Whoa. Far out. Better living through chemistry.
post #7 of 23
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Mr PotatoeHead:

I am not lying, a breakthrough in HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) prevention has been announced. I read it in this month's Skiing Magazine: VIAGRA. It seems that the enzyme which causes an inhibition in blood flow is gobbled up by Viagra. This same action, which has Bob Dole all excited will also help increase pulmonary blood flow, ergo: no HAPE. Whoa. Far out. Better living through chemistry.

Choose your Expedition Partners WISLEY!
post #8 of 23
Thread Starter 
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Dr.GO:

Choose your Expedition Partners WISLEY!
Gee, It brings to mind a whole new version of a face plant. :

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 06, 2001 01:16 PM: Message edited 1 time, by coldfeet ]</font>
post #9 of 23
Two things:
1. Last year Winter Park had an Oxygen bar at the base. I've no idea if they are any use, but it might help.

2. Irish chemists have just mixed Viagra with Valium. The idea is that if you don't get a f#$@ you don't give a f#$@
post #10 of 23
Try going somewhere else. Grand and Summit counties are just too high an altitude for many of us flatlanders to sleep at. I can't for the life of me figure out the big lure of high altitude vacations when there are so many alternatives at lower base altitudes. There are plenty of high country skiers in Colorado and surrounding states to keep that area busy, so it would only make sense for the ski industry to honestly address the health issues associated with sleeping at higher altitudes. --Sadly, that is not the case, and many potential 'ski addicts' get turned off by having to fight illnesses while on vacation. .....Try Reno, Salt Lake, Banff, or Whistler for just as much or more skiable terrain without the altitude problems! :
post #11 of 23
Or, if you really want to sample Summit County, do Steamboat for a few days to warm up / acclimate. Its within reasonable driving distance (albeit over pretty empty roads), and as I recall, its base is something like 6k, not the 9k that you have to deal with in places like Breck.

Tom / PM
post #12 of 23
You can get a prescription from a doctor that you take before you head up to the mountains that is supposed to help immensely. I can't think of the name offhand; you should probably check with your doc. A night in Denver probably wouldn't hurt, either.
post #13 of 23
Thread Starter 
PhysicsMan, I have been skiing out in Colorado for about 25 years. My parents had a place in Vail. I have never had a problem with HAPE before this last year. Granted I am getting older and do enjoy a glass of scotch and a cigar once in a while.

The reason we go to Colorado is my sister in law lives in Boulder so it is a nice jump off point for us and a way to get use to the altitude before heading up to the mountains. We usually spent 2 or 3 days before going up. And I had just been in Nederland a couple of months before(summer).

So hence the dilemma. :
post #14 of 23
Coldfeet - I understand. I was more responding more to Feallen who was suggesting non-Colorado areas as an alternative, and I came back with an alternative in Colorado.

And, yup, altitude sickness certainly is an odd thing. I've seen wimpy, out-of-shape flatlanders do fine, and super-in-shape runners and gym rats laid low by it. For the first time in 30 years, I had a really annoying (but not serious) case of it in Breck 2 years ago. Then, I was fine again both last year and last summer in Breck and way up in the Sierras, even tho I had come directly up from sea level.

Time to acclimate seems to be the sure-fire answer, but the problem is that these days, for most people, if you spend enough time to acclimate, you may have no time left on your vacation.

Tom / PM
post #15 of 23
I tend to go up and down a lot between Boulder where I live and Winter Park where my parents live and I play. At least for two years I was pretty acclimated from skiing and mtn biking. But I stopped hanging out up there after last June and just got back up last week. I slept like crap and came down totaly dehydrated and sore. Not sick but I felt it. Hopefully before too long I'll have some more red blood cells pumping and that will all mellow out.
post #16 of 23
Hi Coldfeet, Sorry to hear of your dilemna. It sounds like you are in about the same situation I was in 3 or 4 years ago. I had come down with AMS for the first time up in Yellowstone while snowmobiling and thought a little prevention and care would prevent it from happening again. I was wrong.- A year later at Breckenridge it happened to me again and I really hadn't stressed myself much at that point. Worse part was that the second time one of the aftereffect symptoms was some really crazy memory loss. -That was part of my decision to retire very early... -- But I just had to try out all the remedies last year. I planned a week long acclimation up through New Mexico and western Colorado, and planned to stay in Grand county for a full month. The week long acclimation went well, but after about 10 days in Grand county, I started having all kinds of crazy symptoms that I couldn't explain. I left 20 days early and was fully recovered in about 2 weeks. I am now adimant about not returning to any area that requires sleeping above 7000 feet, and I prefer to sleep below 6000.
I tell you this to forewarn you that last year may turn out to not be a fluke. If the same thing that has happened to me, has happened to you, there may be very little you can do to totally protect yourself from some potentially serious problems. AMS is something that most doctors realize is very individualized. Some people make full recoveries and never have problems again, but others return to the downward spiral when they return to altitude. Please be careful and use the utmost caution while self diagnosing symptoms. The numbers are small, but there are some people every year that encounter catastrophic events, even though there had been warning signs that could have been used to avoid them.
I tried a lot of things last year to try to ward off this problem, and the only thing I can reccomend for myself this year is a strict regimin of low altitude overnight rests.
-- I only hope this boring dialogue has helped in some way.
Please have a FUN, SAFE, season !! [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #17 of 23
Thread Starter 

I was kind of thinking along the same lines. Maybe we will either stay in boulder and do a couple of day trips up to Eldora and Winterpark.Or head up to Steamboat like PhysicsMan suggested. :
post #18 of 23
You might take a look at Glenwood Springs. It is the same altitude as Denver, but an hour or less away from Vail, Beaver Creek, Aspen, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, Snowmass, and Sunlight. The roads to the ski areas are kept in the best of conditions as weather permits, and there are no passes to cross to get to the ski areas. Good Luck! [img]smile.gif[/img] [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #19 of 23
In dealing with AMS please keep in mind that there are two peaks: One early one within about 24 hours and one later one after a lag period of up to 96 hours. The early one is due to simple hypoxia, you just don't feel well, etc. The later one is where the pulmonary vessels begin to constrict. The lungs do this because if a small area of the lung was not ventilated, you wouldn't want to waste blood flow going to it...so the vessels constrict. It works against you when the whole lung loses oxygen due to altitude: all of the vessels in the lungs constrict decreasing blood flow and then decreasing blood oxygen levels further. This advanced stage of AMS has been reported all the way down to 7500 feet.

The pulmonary edema develops as the lung vessels constrict. There is more pressure in the vessels and they push their fluid into the lung alveoli. This is uncommon below 12,000 feet. Cerebral edema can also occur by the same basic mechanism causing an increase in total blood pressure,this is uncommon below 14,000 feet.

The mechanism for Diamox (acetazolamide) is a diuretic one mainly. In fact that is what it is really made for. By peeing off some water you have less pressure in the blood vessels and less of a chance for edema. It also increases the amount of base that we lose in the urine. As one ascends to altitude and the oxygen becomes less, we hyperventilate a bit. This blows off CO2 (acid) and the blood becomes basic. Diamox helps with getting rid of the base.

Viagra as noted blocks the enzyme responsible for decreasing blood flow, especially in the ***** but also in other vessels. So Viagra causes a dilation of the vessels, less pressure, and less chance for edema.

Be warned that as Diamox is a diuretic you will be peeing off some blood volume that definately needs to be replaced. I would also wait for further studies on Viagra before trying it at altitude. As it decreases blood pressure you could be at risk for passing out if you weren't careful. Also some studies have shown that AMS can be partially prevented by voluntary hyperventilation. Again, be careful, but if you have a headache it wouldn't hurt to try breating faster for a minute to see if it works...just be careful and watch your level of consciousness. The variability in AMS is thought to be due to different peoples degree of involuntary hyperventilation, and those that do this involuntarily are less suseptible to the symptoms of mountain sickness.
post #20 of 23
Lisamarie mentioned trying Diamox but as she noted it can't be used if you are allergic to sulfa. Might also want to try Decadron. Need an Rx for it but both my daughter and I have found that it works great. She tried Diamox the first yr and she had some taste problems and mouth/lip tingling. Nothing serious,just annoying. Didn't have those affects with Decadron. Just need to be careful since it is a steroid
post #21 of 23
post #22 of 23
While HACE and HAPE can be symptomatically treated (ie generalized edema, pulmonary edema, N/V, headache) Diamox is not a cure. the only cure for AMS is to get down the mountain and into a lower altitude. Tolerable hypoxia can occur at 14,000 ft.

But if you experience more severe signs/symptoms like blurred vision, confusion, a productive cough (thats when you are actually coughing up fluid), extreme fatigue, extreme SOB, severe headache, or N/V you need to get down FAST. HACE is not something that commonly occurs above 18,000ft. but some people are just more sensitive to it and it has very little to do with your level of fitness. You could be a cardio mack daddy comparable to Lance Armstrong or Ed Veistures, but once you get hit with HACE or HAPE you really dont want to mess with it.

Acclimation is a good idea. Alcohol is not and if you are on Diamox or Lasix or any other diuretic you really need to amp up on hydration. You dont want to end up dehydrated, that will only skyrocket your BP and give you a killer headache.

Have fun but, be carefull and aware of what's happening internally as well as outside.
post #23 of 23
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the info. So if any of you bears see a guy with a oxygen tank hanging off his back and popping pills at either Eldora or Winter Park, Please stop me to say hi. [img]smile.gif[/img]
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