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Health tips for the mountains


A small percentage of people who travel from sea level to mountain level feel some effects from the change until they adjust to the altitude (usually) in two to four days.

Contributing factors:

  1. underlining illness
  2. over-exertion
  3. fatigue
  4. rapid ascent to high altitude
  5. alcohol ingestion
  6. use of sleeping pills and/or other depressant drugs
  7. poor heart or lung function
  8. individual susceptibility

Common symptoms:

  1. headache (pain killers usually don't help)
  2. insomnia
  3. nausea
  4. dizziness or light-headedness
  5. mild shortness of breath with exertion
  6. decreased appetite

If your symptoms are intolerable or last more than a day or two, medications that may help you are available from a physician. The few people who suffer from acute mountain sickness every time they come to the mountains can take medication in advance and will usually remain symptom-free.

High Altitude Pulmonary Edema ( HAPE):

At the more severe end of the spectrum of altitude effects is this life-threatening condition in which one's lungs leak fluid and/or blood into the bronchioles.

Most common symptoms:

  1. cough developing 48-72 hours after arrival
  2. low-grade fever
  3. shortness of breath, even at rest
  4. headache (not always)
  5. gurgling or feeling of fluid in chest
  6. white or pink frothy sputum from lungs
  7. heavy feeling in chest

Hape must commonly affects men between the ages of 15 and 50. It usually occurs only one time in any individual and not necessarily during his first high altitude experience. If you think you might have HAPE, seek medical attention immediately !


Ascending to high altitude when you're not used to it can precipitate symptoms you've never had before or aggravate ones you have had. High altitude living sometimes serves as "a poor man's cardiac stress test". Whether or not you've ever experienced heart or lung problems at home, please seek immediate attention if you notice extreme shortness of breath (especially if at rest); if you feel any pain, ache, or heaviness in your chest; or if antacids don't seem to be doing any- thing at all for your "indigestion".


Because of the thinner atmosphere at high altitude and reflection from the snow, you are much more likely to get a severe sunburn in a short time (even on a cloudy day) than might be the case in your home community. It is important to apply sunscreen to exposed skin every hour or two throughout the day. A n°15 screen is usually adequate. Frequency of application is often more important than strength.
Beware of burning your eyes, too. Sunglasses or goggles should always be worn if you are to avoid severe pain, injury, or even permanent damage to your eyes. Increased UV (ultraviolet) light exposure can also trigger a severe outbreak of cold sores. Medication can be prescribed if you seek early attention.


Did you 'just' jam or sprain your thumb while skiing or enjoying some other sport ? Don't be too quick to write off this 'injury' as inconsequential.
If you have torn your ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) and it isn't properly taken care of, you could have trouble combing your hair, lifting a can of pop, writing your name, playing tennis, or grasping small objects for the rest of your life. Early medical care can make the difference with this seemingly 'minor' injury.


Knee injuries of various sorts are some of the most common injuries we see, especially during ski season. It can be difficult for you to assess whether or not your injury is a minor sprain or a more serious problem.
If your knee hurts when you put weight on it, swells up, locks in place, gives out on you; or if you heard or felt a pop; skiing and other activities could cause further damage. If in doubt, have it examined.


  1. One alcoholic drink at high altitude affects you like two at sea level.
  2. Wearing a helmet while cycling/skiing can save your life.
  3. A couple of skiing or snowboarding lessons have saved many a novice a visit to a clinic.
  4. Skiing out-of-bounds is unsafe and illegal !
  5. Weather can change rapidly. Wear several light weight layers of clothing so you can easily adjust to changing conditions.
  6. The extremely dry air in the high country can cause a bloody nose and a morning sore throat.