Let me start out here by saying that I am not a doctor nor am I recommending any specific treatment. With that said, I have suffered with Altitude Sickness (Also called Mountain Sickness) for over 35 years. This is what I have learned and what I have done to deal with it.
While I spend a considerable amount of time in the mountains for both business and pleasure I live in the lowlands at about 1000 ft above sea level. Starting in my early 20’s, I would get these debilitating headaches and nausea every time I went skiing in the mountains. I never knew what it was until my wife rushed me to the hospital when we were skiing at Copper Mountain. I thought I was having a brain embolism I was in so much pain. It was then that I was told it was Altitude Sickness. This was 25 years ago and I had never heard of it before that. Over the last 25 years I have learned a number of ways to control and avoid this ski trip bumming affliction.
First let me describe some of the most common symptoms of Altitude Sickness:
- Headaches- Mild to severe
- Nausea – Can also include vomiting
- Lightheadedness or feeling dizzy
- Lack of appetite
- Feeling tired and weak
- Overall Blah feeling – Blah is a technical term
If you seem to suffer from these symptoms on your ski trips, it might be a good idea to go see a doctor and ask about Altitude Sickness. Here are some of the techniques I have used to control Altitude Sickness:
- Drink tons of water, starting a day or two before you head up to the mountains.
- Avoid drinking any alcohol the 1st day or two. Drink very moderately after that. If symptoms return stop drinking alcohol completely.
- Take it easy the 1st day. Don’t ski super aggressive and don’t stay at high altitude (above 10,000 feet) for too long.
- Ask your doctor for a prescription of Diamox. Diamox is a diuretic and I have no idea how it works but it works very well as a preventative and to a lesser the degree as a cure.
- Some doctors will also prescribe, believe it or not, Viagra. I guess it increases blood flow to your brain as well as other parts of your body. I tried it once but didn’t like how it made me feel.
- If none of these give you the relief you need then the best solution is probably an Oxygen Breathing device. There are two ways to do this; you can get a prescription from your doctor for oxygen and then contact an Oxygen Tank rental service where you are going to drop off a tank where you are staying. The other option is to rent or purchase a Portable Oxygen Concentrator. This is a device that pulls oxygen out of the air and delivers it just like an oxygen tank. They weigh about 5-8 lbs. You can rent one at a local medical device store or you can rent them online.
I had done the tank rental numerous times but I got tired of the hassle. So I decided to try renting the oxygen concentrator for a ski trip to Chile where we slept at above 10,000 feet. It worked great so I decided to purchase it. The cost was a hefty $3,000, but considering the number of times I’m at altitude and the fact that I will have it for years, it made sense for me not to feel miserable when I ski. I pack it in my luggage and use it for about 30-60 minutes in the morning before I ski and again 30-60 minutes after I ski or in the evening before I go to sleep. It works great and now I can feel good while I ski and even have a few drinks without feeling awful.
Please keep in mind that I am not a medical professional and for serious problems you should see a doctor. These are just some tips that have worked for me.