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How to Prevent Altitude Sickness When Skiing

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From late November to early April, the ski slopes are crammed with those looking to ski, snowboard or just take in the scenery. Although the views are breathtaking in themselves, there’s another thing which might be taking your breath away: the altitude.

Within this guide, you can learn how to prevent altitude sickness while on your winter holiday in the mountains..

What is Altitude Sickness?

When at high altitude, like on top of a mountain, oxygen levels are lower and this can cause a problem known as altitude sickness or acute mountain sickness. The severity of the disorder is variant depending on the individual and the circumstance, with affecting factors including…

  • Age
  • Weight
  • Blood pressure
  • Fitness
  • Speed of ascension
  • Time spent at a high altitude

The most common symptom of altitude sickness is a headache. If you are at a height of over 8,000 feet and have been experiencing a headache it is best to watch out for other symptoms, as if you do have altitude sickness, you should also have one or more of these…

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weakness or exhaustion (hard to determine source when skiing/snowboarding)
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Malaise (discomfort or unwell feeling)
  • Swelling (in the hands, feet or face)

Altitude sickness can be chronic or acute. Acute altitude sickness is generally due to descending to a height too quickly and so not giving your body enough time to adjust.

At What Elevation Do You Get Altitude Sickness?

Altitude sickness can occur when at an altitude of 8,000 feet or above - this is due to the decreased number of oxygen molecules per breath.

Can Skiing Give You Altitude Sickness?

As stated above, the two main causes of altitude sickness are descending too fast or staying at high altitudes for too long - both in which are probable during.

Most ski resorts will have mountains of 8,000 feet or higher, making altitude sickness more than possible.

How Do You Prevent Altitude Sickness When Skiing?

Your body needs up to three days to acclimatize to high altitudes to limit the risk of developing altitude sickness. But, if you do find yourself with symptoms, you should ensure you do not ignore them. Resting, not smoking and keeping hydrated can all be very beneficial. Other prevention methods can include...

Take Altitude Sickness Tablets (Acetazolamide)

It can be wise to plan for the worst and pack some altitude sickness tablets with you on your trip to effectively prevent altitude sickness symptoms or at least ease them.

Acetazolamide increases the amount of urine your body produces, helping to reduce the amount of fluid in your head and lungs. This will improve your ability to breath at a steady pace and relieve symptoms that can follow.

This particular tablet is available at Express Pharmacy and should be taken twice a day. You should begin to do so two-days before travelling and two days after you reach your final altitude.

Stay Hydrated

Skiing can take it out of you, so staying hydrated is key advice even if you are not experiencing altitude sickness symptoms.

In the case of experiencing altitude sickness, it’s important to drink plenty of water - ideally 4-6 litres a day. This should help to relieve symptoms.

Bringing water bottles with you in a backpack is the best way to ensure you are always keeping yourself properly hydrated. You should also pack some snacks with you as well, to keep your calorie intake steady.

You may not want to hear this, but if you do find yourself experiencing altitude sickness symptoms, avoiding alcohol altogether is the best course of action (to prevent further dehydration). Apres skiing is off the table until you recover - better to be safe than sorry!

Research Into Different Skiing Resorts

Doing your research could be the difference between altitude sickness or avoiding it altogether. Choosing your accommodation wisely is a key method of keeping you on top of your game. Satellite hotels are the best option as they will allow you to acclimatise and provide a lower base altitude so that as you gradually ascend higher, your body will be less affected. It’s important to give your body adequate time to adjust.

Know When It’s Time To Descend

You may be tempted to take a break or sit out on a slope or two in hope that you will begin to feel better, but it's important to know when it's necessary to descend the mountain. Moving to a lower altitude is the best course of action, in most cases, even if you simply do so by 1,000 feet for 24-hours. But those with more severe symptoms should do so by 2,000 feet for a few days to be sure symptoms are relieved. The further down you go, the more symptoms will ease, so it is best to do so until you feel as though you are okay to stop.

Main Takeaways…

If you’ve suffered from altitude sickness in the past, it’s wise to equip yourself with altitude sickness tablets to prevent it ruining your skiing holiday. Acetazolamide is available to be delivered to your door from Express pharmacy, making it an effortless precaution to take to get the most out of your trip and avoid any unwanted sickness.