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altitude sickness / AMS and planning a trip with spouse

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
I've read the sticky and poked through other threads on the topic. What I'd like to get is some marital-related advice.

I am about to pull the trigger on an Alta trip with my wife in early March. We'd fly in on day one, stay at one of the mountain lodges, ski for days 2, 3, 4, and fly home on day 5. Because my wife has limited time off, we have to make it a short trip.

This will be my wife's first time at such high elevations, and I'm a bit worried about the 20-25% chance that she will experience some effects of altitude sickness. I know my symptoms are usually very minor (some headaches and insomnia) and do not affect my skiing at all, just my sleeping. Not a big deal, I just bro it out. The trouble is, I don't think my wife would bro it out too well if she were affected by altitude sickness, and with a fairly short three days at Alta, it could ruin the trip for her. Part of the appeal of staying onsite at Alta is the lodging experience and the great meals, and it would suck if she couldn't even enjoy that.

Not sure if I should worry about this, or just book the trip and gamble on the 75-80% likelihood she will not be affected by altitude sickness. The alternative is a significantly less expensive car trip to Vermont, which would be OK, but it really lacks the appeal of Alta for both of us (especially me).

Anybody have thoughts/advice? Thanks.
post #2 of 11

diamox?

I'm generally very reticent about any sort of prescription drug usage, but for the first time I took an inexpensive prescription of Diamox last Spring in preparation for similar high elevation/short duration visit to Keystone. Went direct from sea level to resort level (base 9300', higher than Alta) for four consecutive days. It seemed to work well countering my past susceptibility to mild altitude sickness. Although occasionally short of breath, I had no headaches and felt energetic, even during a full first day on slopes. Diamox should not be taken without consulting an MD. Dosage starts a couple days before trip and continues 2 days after arrival. If the wife doesn't like it, she can stop at any time. The only side effect I noticed was tingly fingers, however, some of my non-Diamox trip mates experienced that too on first 2 days at altitude.

You could also forget diamox and just go for it and if someone gets sick go down to SLC for a night.

Either way, definitely don't bag the trip on an unfounded concern.

PS: I'm pretty close to the marital aspects of this subject. My wife took the diamox with me back in VA, but found the tingly fingers at sea level too weird and discontinued dosage. When we got to Keystone she felt a little woozy and observing my favorable results - started taking it again :-( Not the correct way to go of course.
post #3 of 11
Having experienced not only Altitude Illness-AMS, but HAPE/HACE as well at ESA Snowmass, I can tell you it can get from inconvenient to ugly really fast, and can be fatal before you know it. Obviously since I'm still alive to post, I had some knowledgeable medical intervention. THANK YOU db !!! XOXO to you ! And I hope you chime in here. I'm still learning & heading to Solitude next week. So, if I was smart I'd pm you.

First- check with a knowledgeable DR. many are not because, gee, they are at sea level & don't deal with it. I cannot take Diamox, sulfa drug allergy. There are also lots of sideaffects & I'm told some people don't do well with them. What I have learned & concluded are: Where you sleep counts altitude wise. #2 Diamox serves to excrete bicarbonates from the body's circulatory systems. So I concluded - DO NOT take Aiborne or Alka Seltzer Cold Plus or anything that will alkalize your body/bloodstream. I conclude alkalyzing is contraindicated. My current neurologist is admittedly ignorant of AMS & could not substantiate this conclusion. I hope some other phys. on epic can. Increase carbohydrate consumption. Coke-the Real Thing- not the illegal substance, is not a bad soft drink while at altitude. Water is preferred, but consuming a Coke also could be helpful. Pepsi or other brand doesn't count as helpful.

#3. I grew up in the Rockies. I may be at low altitude now, but spend a large portion of my week at 8,000 plus. But I don't sleep there. Thought I was immune. I had a slight cold when I arrived in Snowmass, the cold got worse upon arrival. So I thought. In reality - any cold symptoms or worsening of them should be checked for AMS - AMS/HAPE/HACE have many symptoms that are the same as a cold. Cough, congestion, naseau, diff breathing, dizzyness. Have them checked out immediately. Depending on what's going on, it can get worse, fast & be ugly or fatal. I doubt that would happen to you. But, a weeklong cough I had disappeared within an hour after arriving home, as well as other symptoms that slowly disappeared over the week. I had been prescribed steroids after being bedridden for 3days. The steroids were great for the AMS, HACE, may have been beneficial for the HAPE, but aren't used for treating HAPE. Reducing altitude at night, IF it happens, makes the big difference as well as medical intervention if required. It doesn't take much to make things a WHOLE LOT better.

My plan 1 month after my bout of AMS etc., for next weeks trip & lodging above 8000: No alkalyzing of my system, tend toward acidifying with what I eat/drink. Spend 5 days (can't do the nights) prior to the trip above 8,000 or more (need my skiing anyhow). Add carbs to my diet before & while there, hydrate. If I wake up the 1st day with symptoms beyond a headache, seek eval which is avail on site, be prepared to leave my compadres & sleep in SLT. Ski with them during the day, but sleep at an altitude well below 8000.
I think knowing the symptoms, looking out for each other, responding appropriately are more important than stats. and committing to slopeside accomodations as a group. You will most likely have a great ski vacation. But, heed the signs & if needed, be happy to quickly move to lower nighttime altitude if med personnel recommend it. You can get a refund or partial refund which would more than pay for SLC accomodations. And most importantly, if more serious AMS happens, going down altitude at night, means you can ski at altitude during the day. (most importantly, & most likely)

Anyone with knowledge, skill, experience in this, please chime in.....
post #4 of 11
Why not just take an intermediate step and spend the first night in SL? Works pretty well for me although I don't come from sea level.
post #5 of 11
Take it easy the first day. Drink plenty of water. Avoid too much alchohol (most of the bars at the Alta lodges close pretty early, so that helps!). Be mindful of headaches and dizziness.
post #6 of 11
So I made my first post in this thread without reading dp's original AMS thread first. I'm adding that I will start the ginkgo (standardized extract) as prescribed 7-5 days before hitting nighttime altitude. I'd already planned that after dp recommended it in Snowmass. I've since found out 2 studies confirm a benefit from Gingko & 1 shows no benefit (so what's new, I'm good with plants so I'll go for it.)
Make sure I eat extra whole food/veges/fruits containing Vitamin C & other nutrients to strenthen & benefit blood vessels. A person should consume these things as part of a healthy diet anyhow. They tend to be acidifying so that's a double shot in one. Continue to cook my food in cast iron for the iron-blood benefits.

Have a list of nearby SLC hotels so if my brain gets fuzzy, the info is already there for myself or my helpful friends. If I have the info in advance, I won't need it as usually happens when planning for the worst.

IF you can spend a night or 2 acclimitizing & ascending slowly, do so. If not, be educated, seek avail medical help for eval. And have a back up plan just incase.
post #7 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by skier219 View Post
I've read the sticky and poked through other threads on the topic. What I'd like to get is some marital-related advice.

I am about to pull the trigger on an Alta trip with my wife in early March. We'd fly in on day one, stay at one of the mountain lodges, ski for days 2, 3, 4, and fly home on day 5. Because my wife has limited time off, we have to make it a short trip.
Vermont, which would be OK, but it really lacks the appeal of Alta for both of us (especially me).

Anybody have thoughts/advice? Thanks.
Oh my gosh, I TOTALLY missed the most important thing about your post ! Marital-related advice, Alta-early March !

Send your wife over to theskidiva.com or speak with philpug yourself. Early March is a gathering over the peak from Alta & philpug will be representing epic bears on the male gender side. That should resolve the marital-related part. The AMS part - just be educated & it probably won't even happen. Not a big worry.
post #8 of 11
Always remember that just because YOU haven't had any altitude problems in the past, doesn't mean you won't.

Even those of us that live @ 5280 feet, need to be aware when we go higher.
post #9 of 11
Since you are in Alta..you can drive within 30 minutes down to SLC and it will rectify your altitude sickness. Had it happen in Park City to me 3 years ago. It really sucked for sure.

But, as we descended through the mountain pass down to SLC, I felt better and better, by the time we got to the airport, I had recovered that fast. 1 hr time.

From then on, I take acetazolomide. Brand name Diamox. I don't drink alcohol, I drink plenty of water and carry it with me on the slopes and kind of go easy the first day or so.

Never had reactions to the acetazolomide except the uninating more frequently, which is normal, and a kind of foggy strange feeling. I stop it after the first day of altitude, because is also seems to make me more fatigued while on it.

Anyway, I am bringing with me again to Breck this year. Never been that high so fast and my neighbor got altitude sickness last year at Winter park.

Down side for us, we live at sea level..so going from nothing to 9K feet msl is going to be brutal I can tell.

What does everyone think about portable oxygen and bring it with? You can get cans of the stuff, wonder if that could help relieve symptoms if they start to appear?

Thanks
post #10 of 11
The real treatment for altitude sickness is to descend.

Steroids (for emergency treatment) and Diamox (a diuretic) have surprisingly limited data supporting their use and their effectiveness is very individual. Keep in mind steroids are used at the point which you're already in deep deep trouble .

Ski high and sleep low is a good idea and probably your most practical and effective option. Gradual adjustment of 1000' per day over @6-7,000' is also preferable, but doesn't sound realistic in your case.
post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by techlogik View Post
Since you are in Alta..you can drive within 30 minutes down to SLC and it will rectify your altitude sickness. Had it happen in Park City to me 3 years ago. It really sucked for sure.
You're bumping a year old thread, here, but for the sake of completeness, my wife did fine. Like me, she had a light headache the first night, but was OK the rest of the time.
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