When you first arrive, acclimatize yourself for a period of time prior to beginning strenuous activities. At high elevations, the atmosphere is thinner and there is less oxygen and less humidity available to you than at sea level. This can result in a number of symptoms such as muscle fatigue, insomnia, mild headaches or slight shortness of breath.
Our thin atmosphere filters out only a minimum of the sun’s ultraviolet (“UV”) rays and can result in severe sunburn. So be sure to take adequate precautions to protect your eyes and skin. During high-exposure activities such as spring skiing, those with fair skin may experience sunburn after only two hours of sun exposure, even after applying maximum sunscreen protection. Parents should be especially careful with young children, and apply a generous amount of sunscreen prior to any outdoor activities.
At this elevation, the weather can change quickly. Winter or summer prolonged exposure to the elements can cause serious problems. Children are not always aware that they are becoming too cold. Parents should watch for red noses and red ears. If this occurs, bring the child in from the cold, remove wet clothes and warm the child and affected areas immediately. Take frequent breaks from the cold or heat. It is wise to layer your clothes, no matter what the season. A t-shirt, wool sweater, nylon windbreaker with hood and a bottle of water are basics for just about any summer activity.
Eat Lightly and Drink Plenty of Liquids
You may tend to become dehydrated more quickly at high altitude than at sea level, so drink plenty of water and other fluids (8-10 glasses daily). You should also avoid drinking alcoholic beverages for the first 24 hours of your stay.
Protect Your Eyes from High Altitude Sun and Wind
It is important to use proper UV protection for your eyes. The surface of the dirt or water can act as a reflector of UV rays and can generate a great deal of UV exposure to the eyes. Equip yourself and your children with UV sunglasses or goggles. Failure to wear proper eye protection can result in an actual burn of the eye’s surface– a painful condition requiring medical treatment. Wind and blowing dust can wreak havoc on sensitive eyes so make sure to have protection even when the weather seems calm.
Listen to Your Body
If you experience symptoms such as headache, insomnia and/or fatigue, you may have a mild form of “altitude sickness.” These symptoms are a warning to decrease your activity level. If symptoms persist or begin to worry you, don’t hesitate to come to the Emergency Department or Sierra Park Family Medicine Clinic.