About 75% of people who ascend to higher altitudes experience uncomfortable symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, and shortness of breath. These are symptoms commonly associated with altitude sickness and can range from relatively mild to potentially life-threatening.
High altitude sickness is a result of ascending to a higher altitude. A decrease in atmospheric pressure reduces oxygen levels the higher up you go, which places more stress on the body. Fortunately, most can adapt to these changes when given enough time to adjust to its new surroundings — a process known as acclimatization.
Why Do You Need to Acclimatize to High Altitudes?
The human body is a self-regulating system that constantly seeks to maintain equilibrium with its environment. It has the ability to self-regulate and maintain balance in response to various internal and external stimuli in a process called homeostasis.
When the body experiences changes in its surroundings, it attempts to restore balance and regulate itself in response to those changes, resulting in the various physiological responses you experience. This is what happens when you ascend to higher altitudes rapidly.
For instance, your body has to compensate for the decreased number of molecules in the air at altitude by increasing the respiration rate to properly oxygenate the blood. This attempt to achieve homeostasis results in the physiological responses you experience, which manifests as high altitude sickness.
With time, the body can return to a state of equilibrium as you acclimate to your new environment. At this point, your symptoms are gone, and you begin to feel “normal” again.
How to Acclimatize to High Altitude
The main goal of high altitude acclimatization is to allow sufficient time for the body to adapt to its new environment and prevent the development of adverse physiological symptoms associated with rapid ascension.
Follow these tips below on how to acclimatize to high altitude to ensure a more comfortable ascent:
- Ascend Slowly – Spend a few additional days at around 5,000 feet before ascending further to make it more gradual. Plan your trip accordingly to account for the additional days spent at this altitude.
- Get Adequate Sleep – Your body works hard to repair itself and flush out toxins when it is asleep. Keep your body at peak condition by allowing more time to recuperate.
- Drink Plenty of Water – Dehydration occurs faster at higher elevations because of the low humidity levels at altitude. Allow your body to compensate for the decreased amount of moisture in the air by drinking more water than usual.
- Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine – In addition to keeping yourself hydrated, try to avoid diuretics like alcohol and caffeine. Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages like beer and liquor and caffeine-rich beverages like coffee to prevent your body from losing more moisture.
- Eat a High Carb, Low Salt Diet – Studies have shown that eating foods rich in carbohydrates with less salt can help people adapt to hypoxic conditions at altitude.
How Long Does Altitude Acclimatization Last?
As mentioned above, the symptoms of altitude sickness appear when you ascend too quickly. But allowing enough time for your body to restore equilibrium can alleviate these symptoms.
Theoretically, the length of time your body needs to acclimate will depend on how far away your body is from equilibrium. In this case, the amount of time will depend on how fast and high you travel.
However, in many cases, the body may be unable to cope when the ascent is too rapid. This is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends spending between three to five days at 8,000 to 9,000 feet before proceeding to a higher elevation.
What are the 3 Stages of Acclimatization to High Altitude?
For those who regularly ascend to places with higher elevations, it is helpful to create a systematic approach to preventing high altitude sickness by subdividing the entire journey into three main stages. This was the highlight of a 2018 study wherein the team of researchers implemented measures for controlling High Altitude Disease (HAD) according to the stages of acclimatization: preparation, ascent, and descent.
The three above mentioned stages describe different stages relative to the travel period to higher altitudes. Although the program was created to help with soldier training in the Chinese military, the information supplied by the study can also be helpful to athletes and frequent travelers to places with high elevations.
Promote Seamless Acclimatization With Altitude Control Technology
Ultimately, the main goal of acclimatization is to prevent the occurrence of high altitude sickness symptoms by helping the body adapt to its new surroundings. The body does an excellent job at this with milder stimuli, which is why it is recommended to make gradual ascents and allow sufficient time to acclimate by not ascending too high, too fast.
As the leading provider of altitude training equipment and oxygen control systems, Altitude Control Technology enables the simulation of the necessary conditions to allow your body to adapt to high altitude conditions seamlessly. Whether you’re at sea level or your mountain home, our room oxygenation solutions can help recreate the necessary conditions to ensure a more comfortable stay at your destination.
Unlike other systems, ACT’s state-of-the-art technology delivers accurate altitude simulation, effectively replicating conditions at or near sea level. It blends seamlessly with any decor and remains completely silent, working hard in the background to give you maximum comfort. Learn more about our altitude control solutions by getting in touch with us today!
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