Altitude sickness

sjerin

Dh has always wanted to visit Yellowstone Park so we're planning to do so sometime this year--lots of thought has gone into this trip so far but I understand it can be tough finding accommodations, due to the crowds. My biggest worry--I'm a champion worrier!--is the possibility or likelihood, really, of altitude sickness on my part. We were visiting Boulder a couple of years ago and I couldn't even make it up to Estes Park; had to turn the car around and go back down. I know that drinking plenty of water and acclimating can help, but I'd sure like to hear from anyone who may have had a personal experience with this. We'll be entering the park from the Idaho side and haven't made specific plans beyond that. In my reading I see there are a couple of specific spots (Dunraven Pass at 8,860 especially,) that I'm concerned about, though all of the park is up in elevation for me--I'm used to nearly sea-level at my home. Knowing dh, he'll want to cover as much of the two loops as possible but I might need to disabuse him of this idea if I feel that it will be utter misery for me!

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Annie Deighnaugh

I'm going back years and years with someone I knew who climbed Kilimanjaro. At that time, he said the doc provided pills that helped with altitude sickness. Apparently the pills made you pant which helped oxygenate the blood. No idea what they were or if they're still around. Knowing that, when I go to high places, I will pant and do things like face into the wind which helps keep me oxygenated.

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blfenton

There are medications for altitude sickness which I assume you can get from a clinic. As to whether of not there are natural remedies I have no idea. If you have the time you can spend time acclimatizing but the problem with that is, of course, it takes time.

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Elmer J Fudd

Go a few days early and spend those days at the higher altitude relaxing, doing very light activities and acclimatizing. It makes a difference. The effect of altitude is well know and understood and affects most people. It's not something mysterious.

If you don't address it and do nothing, thinking you'll get away with it and not be troubled, you have reason to worry. Not otherwise.

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beesneeds

There’s meds to help with it. And I know out Vale way a lot of folks use canned oxygen to help with it too, most of the supply shops seem to carry it.

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norar_il

I read this as "attitude" sickness and thought I certainly agree.

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sjerin

Thank you for your thoughts and thank you especially, mdln, for the links. I don't know how I missed seeing that there is an actual medication that may help, though I did read that taking Advil may help alleviate symptoms somewhat. We do plan on taking a day or two in the valley before heading up.

Interestingly, I also read that there seems to be no rhyme nor reason as to who is affected and at which altitude.

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blfenton

both of my sons have been to Machu Pichu. One of them was really sick with the altitude and the other didn't feel a thing except for a slight headache. We live at sea level as well.

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nickel_kg

I'm an east-coaster with experience relevant to your question. Years ago, I had a touch of altitude sickness at Lake Tahoe -- it felt like moving through molasses, like my body could only move in slow motion. I don't remember if there was a headache but probably was. Yuck. So, when we planned our Wyoming trip, I read a lot about preventive measures. This article from princeton.edu had the best summary. (Stay hydrated, don't over-exert yourself, avoid alcohol for the first couple days at least, were the ones that I paid closest attention to.)

Our trip was awesome. We started with a couple slow and easy days in Cheyenne, elevation 6000 feet. Drove over the Snowy Mountain range (8000 to 10,000 feet) and only felt a bit "off" at the high point of the highway. After another couple days in the Jackson Hole area (mostly 6,000 feet again), we had no problems in Yellowstone (8,000+ feet). Now, we weren't taking the steepest hikes but we did walk extensively with no shortness of breath.

So I'd say -- consult your doctor if you feel at all concerned or if your or your husband are in a risk group -- but taking at least 3 full, low-key days and nights at 6,000-ish feet, and drinking gallons of water -- made all the difference to me. Enjoy your trip!

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ravencajun Zone 8b TX

I just discussed this with my husband. When we moved from Memphis to Colorado neither of us experienced altitude sickness. I actually felt like my lungs were healthier there than they had ever been. I felt very good. I immediately without trying lost a significant amount of weight. Just breathing at those altitudes is a workout. Some of the men I worked with in Memphis warned me about the weight loss. They would go on long hunting trips up there and they would make sure to gain weight before they went because they generally lost about 20 pounds during the hunting trip. We would take day trips to the mountains and valleys I never felt ill. I liked it till the snowing started. I hated that. With all of my health issues I am very surprised that I never had a problem with the altitude.

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Lars

My brother gets altitude sickness - I do not, although I will experience shortness of breath. I used to go to Mexico City (7,400' altitude) every winter when I lived in San Francisco, and it would take me about three days to adjust, but I was in my 20s and early 30s back then. I did a lot of walking there, which was faster than taking a bus or taxi during rush hour, which lasted several hours, morning and afternoon. I usually stayed there for about a month at a time.

You won't know whether you will get altitude sickness until you go there, but you should definitely expect shortness of breath. Practicing yoga before going may help, especially if you do breathing exercises.

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Elmer J Fudd

Shortness of breath and headaches are forms of altitude sickness.

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whatsayyou18

We live at 7500' and find our guests do fine. One gal didn't drink enough water and had headaches (blamed it on not having her daily Starbucks <<eyeroll>>). I agree with arriving a few days early if you can.

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OklaMoni

I also read attitude sickness...


Idaho is higher than were you live. How much time are you going to be in Idaho? I am asking, cause you say, you will enter from Idaho. Hopefully you are long enough in Idaho, to acclimate to the nearby altitude. This should be helpful. You may also try to go to a few higher towns there, before going to Yellowstone?

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OutsidePlaying

Where will you be staying in Yellowstone? Does the altitude affect you when you are just passing through high altitudes? It does affect many people when they are staying overnight and I understand that. Some, maybe many really, are affected by headaches and shortness of breath temporarily. I always was for a couple of days when we would arrive in Denver for a ski trip. I hope you can get relief from the medications and enjoy your trip. Yellowstone is a beautiful place.

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Elmer J Fudd

As an interesting aside somewhat related but mostly irreverent for tourists, the US National Soccer team often plays its Mexican counterpart in the tournament for World Cup qualification. Mexico usually chooses to play its home matches in Mexico City, at an altitude of a bit over 7000 feet, to add to its "home field advantage".

The US soccer federation long ago recognized this element of gamesmanship, for a sport that depends on the endurance and stamina of those playing to be able to run mostly continuously for 90 minutes. As a result, for a week or more in advance of matches to be played in Mexico City, the US team trains in Colorado (maybe Denver, maybe somewhere higher) to allow the players to acclimate themselves to exertion a mile or more above sea level.

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amicus

sjerin, I obviously don't know your (or your DH's) current health status, so I stalled off responding to this, to avoid sounding like a 'Debbie Downer.' But I finally decided I'd rather mention my experience, than say nothing, in case either of you have any heart or lung issues, that should cleared with your doctor, first.

We planned a vacation to visit my brother, who'd moved to Sierra Vista, Arizona. My mom wanted to join us, so my brother advised her that he lived at an elevation a bit under 5,000' and to clear it with her doctor, as she's always lived in a city of only 600' elevation. The concern was because she'd had some episodes of Atrial Fibrillation several years earlier, and was on medication to keep her heart rhythm regular. But other than that, my mother seemed to be a healthy 70 year old.

We visited my brother for a week, and my mother had no problems with the altitude. We had planned to take our children to stay in Flagstaff overnight, (about 6,900' elevation) then to visit a view point of the Grand Canyon the next day, at a few hundred feet higher. Originally my mother was going to stay visiting at my brother's, until after we returned from that little side trip, but she decided she wanted to join us. As she hadn't had any difficulty during the week at my brother's, we weren't overly concerned.

I will always live with regret that I didn't follow my gut, when I wondered if the extra elevation might affect Mom. Long story short, within a few hours of arriving at our hotel in Flagstaff, my mother said she suddenly felt 'very odd' and I immediately knew she was experiencing A-Fib again, or having altitude sickness. Sadly, she collapsed within minutes, literally as DH was calling 911. The doctor told us the stress of the higher elevation probably put her heart back into A-Fib, and unfortunately, gave no warning signs, until just before the massive stroke that killed her.

I think when my mother told her doctor she'd be visiting Arizona, she probably never mentioned it would be in cities of higher elevation, and therefore he had no concerns. So now, whenever I hear of people wanting to visit places with elevation significantly higher than they're used to, I just caution them to get approval from their doctor, if they have any medical issues with their lungs or heart. If you don't, you should have no worries and I'm sure you'll both have a wonderful time on your trip!

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raee_gw zone 5b-6a Ohio

I used to backpack parts of the Pacific Crest trail, and climbed Mt. Whitney. Coming from San Diego, I would get altitude sickness my first day up at the campground at about 8000 ft (but not every single time, don't know why) - and carried Pepto Bismol as my remedy. It would relieve the headache and nausea, and by the next morning I would be fine. But once I did have to make my way back down to a lower elevation because it was severe enough that I felt that I shouldn't stay up there (about 10500 ft) that night.

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ladypat1

Going to Estes Park (7522 feet) every summer most of my life from Kansas (800 ft.) to Denver (5280) and staying in Denver for about 24 hours before going on up to Estes Park and into the higher National park kept me from altitude sickness. Sometimes we tried to skip the Denver 24 hours and I would end up with a flu like thing for about 2 days. So we really didn't gain any fun time by pushing ahead. When my daughter lived in Denver, and I would fly in, I still needed 24 hours before we went higher. Check on the altitudes you will encounter and try this method.

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jemdandy

We flat-landers need about 3 days to acclimate to higher elevations. Its best to do this in stages rather than all at once. On one vacation trip, I went from 650 ft elevation to 9000 ft in two days. Most of the elevation gain was done on the second day. That was in the Colorado Rockies. On the second night out, we camped overnight at 9000 ft elevation and I awoke the next morning with a headache. At the time, I thought that it might have been a reaction to pine pollen that was in abundance, but later learned that it was altitude sickness. The illness abated on the 3rd day.

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sjerin

I have no problem in Denver and though I haven't been to Tahoe in several years, other than needing to breathe harder, I didn't get a headache. I'm so glad to have more to work with--thank you all for your helpful ideas.

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Elmer J Fudd

For me, both in Denver and up in the Sierra, I go slow for a few days. I once visited Mammoth - it's beautiful there, but it's high (about 8000 feet in the village, higher up the mountain) and I noticed the effect.

I think the altitude at Yellowstone Park is more like what's at Mammoth, several thousand feet higher than base levels in Denver or Lake Tahoe/Truckee and more typical of places on the ski runs in both places. Have a good trip but don't underestimate what may be encountered.

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