The six things you can do to prevent altitude sickness… and three things that won’t work.

How can you prevent altitude sickness? The symptoms of altitude sickness including headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue and trouble sleeping are due to a lack of sufficient oxygen.

Here is a quick list to prepare you for your next visit to high altitude.

What Works:

  1. Slow Ascent – The most important thing to prevent altitude sickness is slow ascent. It takes days to properly acclimatize. Take your time. Before going to 8,000 feet or higher spend a day or two at 5,000 feet or lower. Then go up 1,000 feet per day. But most people will not do this. Time is important to us and spending time at intermediate altitudes is a slow and expensive process.
  2. Hydrate – Drink a little extra water and avoid dehydrating drinks like alcohol and coffee. Don’t overdo it. Usually, 8-12 glasses of water per day are sufficient.
  3. Take it easy – Your first day or two at altitude should be easy ones. Intense exercise at altitude can bring on altitude sickness. But most people don’t like to wait to enjoy their mountain activities.
  4. Sleep at a Lower Altitude – Sleep at an altitude that is lower than the altitude you were at during the day (WebMD). For example, if you ski at 9,500 feet during the day, sleep the night before and the night after as low as you can. “Climb high, sleep low” is standard practice for those who spend time at high altitudes. An ACT oxygenation system will provide the same result.
  5. Descend – Go no higher – e.g. Ski lifts, hiking above your current altitude etc. If you have symptoms go down at least 1,000 – 2,000 feet.
  6. Oxygenate – ACT’s controlled system that provides a constant stream of oxygen to your bedroom will reduce effective altitude by 7,000 feet and restore your body’s normal oxygen saturations. This interrupts the cycle of hypoxia (low oxygen) and prevents altitude sickness altogether.

What does not work:

  • Cans of oxygen – According to Dr. David Grey of Breckenridge’s High Altitude Mobile Physicians, there is simply not enough oxygen in these small cans to provide any meaningful relief.
  • Herbs and potions – Studies have not shown these to be superior to placebo.
  • Uncontrolled and uncontained oxygen – Room oxygenation works well with controllers that measure, calculate to provide enough oxygen to make a physiological impact. But just pumping oxygen in a room is almost always ineffective and can even be dangerous. Without proper computerized control, an oxygenation system cannot meet safety standards like the National Fire Protection Association standard for fire safe oxygen use.

Dr. David Grey – Breckenridge – High Altitude Mobile Physicians – Interview