Thursday, December 15, 2011
Headed to the Mountains for the Holidays?
Are skis mittens and lift tickets wrapped up and placed under your Christmas tree? Ski season is in full swing, and for those of us who aren't lucky enough to LIVE in the mountains, it's time to start planning our annual pilgrimage to the high lands. On the medical front, know that one unexpected and unhappy surprise of a mountain vacation can be the development of symptoms of altitude sickness.
When does it start?
-usually within the first 24 hours, and often as early as the first few hours after arrival.
What are the common signs?
-MIld to moderate:Headache, decreased appetite or nausea, insomnia, and lightheadedness
-Severe: All of the above plus vomiting and shortness of breath
Ultimately, going to a lower elevation will relieve symptoms, but rest and hydration will alleviate most mild symptoms. For persistent or worsening symptoms, head to a clinic for possible oxygen and medications.
Hydration and avoidance of diuretics like CAFFEINE and ALCOHOL, especially the first few days.
SLOW ASCENT if possible (driving up to the mountains is lower risk than flying).
If you have had altitude sickness previously, see your doctor and consider prophylactic medications (acetazolamide or steroids).
BOTTOM LINE: Don't let the mountains take your breath away- plan ahead to prevent altitude sickness!