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5 Tips for Preventing High Altitude Sickness

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I'm no stranger to health problems on the road. That's why I tote a virtual drug store with me when I travel, including Cipro, sleeping pills, Neosporin, Visine, Tums, Claritin, Imodium, insect repellent with DEET, several types of band aids, Ibuprofen and baby aspirin.

But none of this prepared me for the nasty case of high altitude sickness that hit me in Aspen, Colorado this spring.

Also known as acute mountain sickness, the illness' symptoms came very soon after I flew into Aspen, about 7,900 feet above sea level. A simple stroll at Maroon Lake near Aspen's most photographed mountains - another 2,000 feet up - left me gasping, with a throbbing headache. And when I thrashed around in the middle of the night, unable to breathe with a vise-like tightness in my chest, I knew I was in trouble.


Consider the following tips to prevent high altitude sickness.

1. Think about driving instead of flying to your destination. I've been to Aspen before, as well as nearby Beaver Creek, Boulder and Estes Park. But I had always flown into Denver, a lower altitude at 5,000 feet, and then driven into the mountains. Those few hours give your body more time to acclimate to the thinner air.

2. Stay low on your first day. Within hours of landing in Aspen, I went up another 2,000 feet to visit Maroon Lake and view the famed Maroon Bells. In retrospect, it would have been better to give myself a day in Aspen proper before going up higher.

3. If you are having problems, take it easy. The beauty of Aspen's wilderness makes you want to go outside immediately and run, bike, hike, what have you. But if you are already sick, doing these activities can make your condition even worse. Consider a spa day with a trip to an oxygen bar instead.

4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Water is always a good idea in the West, where the dry air seems to take all the moisture out of your skin. It can also help alleviate minor headaches.

5. Avoid alcohol. I only had a few sips of wine at Montagna at Little Nell on my first night, but even that probably made my condition worse. Although ski resorts are known for their party scene, I've never been able to handle more than one or two drinks when I'm up that high.

For more tips on preventing high altitude sickness, visit Chris Around The World