Welcome to the High Altitude of Keystone Colorado! The mountains of Colorado are among the most beautiful parts of the United States and we hope you enjoy every minute of your visit. However, some of the very features which make this area so attractive may also cause you problems, unless you are able to recognize the symptoms and know how to prevent them. Many health effects of high altitude can be prevented by doing a few things ahead of time and planning ahead for your trip to altitude.
As you ascend to higher altitudes, atmospheric pressure decreases, the air is thinner and less oxygen is available. It is also colder, drier, and the ultraviolet rays from the sun are stronger. Each of these changes may have unpleasant effects on your body.
Above 8000 feet, altitude illness affects 20 to 30% of visitors from low altitude to some degree. The extent to which you are affected depends on how quickly you ascend, what elevation you attain, how hard you exercise, what you eat and drink, and what health problems you may have (smoking, emphysema, asthma, anemia, diabetes, high blood pressure).
When planning a trip to an area above 8000 feet, consult with your doctor if you have any questions. After arriving at high altitude, you will probably notice that your breathing is faster and/or deeper, and you may feel short of breath, especially when exercising. This is the body’s first and most effective response to higher elevations. In addition, your heart is likely to beat faster, and you may develop nausea, unusual tiredness, headache, or have difficulty sleeping.
Visitors with one or more of these symptoms may have Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). This form of altitude illness usually resolves in a day or two. If the symptoms become worse, or if you are concerned, be sure to consult a doctor. A wet cough, increasing shortness of breath or the feeling of fluid collecting in your lungs may signal a more serious condition called High Altitude Pulmonary Edema or HAPE. HAPE requires immediate medical attention.
Before you leave home, you can do a few things to decrease the effects of high altitude. Spending two nights at modest altitude, 5000 to 6000 fed, may decrease symptoms when you ascend. Ideally, spending some time in Denver (5280 feet) is a good idea before making your way to Keystone Colorado. Eating foods which are high in carbohydrates, drinking more water than usual and using less salt may also help.
Diamox is a prescription drug which prevents unpleasant symptoms for many people who may be exceptionally prone to AMS. Experience suggests a small dose can be effective; 125 mg twice a day, beginning 24 hours before arrival to high altitude. Diamox should not be taken by people who are allergic to sulfa drugs. Discuss use and possible minor side effects (tingling sensations, altered taste, or increased urination) with your doctor.
Once you arrive, take it easy for the first day or two. Adequate hydration is important in the prevention of altitude illness. Drink two or three times more water or fluid than usual. Limit alcohol consumption for two or three days and minimize caffeine intake. Limit salty foods and increase carbohydrate consumption. Above all, listen to your body. Do not push the limits of your physical capabilities. If you feel worse, get medical attention! Minor altitude illness symptoms can occasionally become life threatening.
At high altitude the ultraviolet rays from the sun are more intense and, therefore, more damaging. Even when it is cloudy, the risk of sunburn is extreme. Before going out for the day, protect yourself and your family from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Apply a sunscreen, SPF-15-30 to your skin before beginning outdoor activities and every two hours while outside.
To prevent sun injury to the eyes, wear sunglasses or goggles with ultraviolet (UV) protection.
Frostbite and Hypothermia
The air temperature falls three degrees Fahrenheit for every 1000 feet of elevation gain, therefore, temperatures in the high country can drop rapidly. Hypothermia (low body temperature) can occur when you are wet, chilled, fatigued or dressed inappropriately; even during warm weather. Warning signs are confusion, difficulty speaking, irritability and loss of coordination. Bring along extra clothes, drink and eat sufficiently and watch for warning signs in each other. If in doubt, stop, warm up, take fluid and food, and if necessary send for help.
Frostbite is caused by cold exposure, resulting in ice crystals forming in the skin. It frequently occurs in the extremities, specifically the nose, ears, fingers and toes. The skin becomes numb, firm and yellowish white in color. Re-warming causes tingling and pain with skin color changes and blisters occurring in severe cases. Prevention includes dressing appropriately in winter (layering), wearing boots and gloves that are not wet or too tight, and taking time to warm up frequently.
Consult a doctor for severe cases of any of these injuries due to exposure to cold weather, or if you have any concerns regarding cold injury related problems.
Summit County Medical Care
Physicians in the area are trained in Family Practice and Emergency Care. If necessary they can arrange access to specialists throughout Summit and Eagle Counties. The staff and facilities can help meet your health care needs, should you require medical attention.
Ebert Family Clinic
730 N. Summit Blvd., Ste. 101
High Country Healthcare – Silverthorne
265 Tanglewood Lane
Keystone Medical Clinic
1252 Cty. Rd. 8
CHPG – High Country Healthcare – Frisco
360 Peak One Blvd. #260
Vail Summit Orthopaedics
360 Peak One Blvd #180
Avoid Altitude Illness
• Increase Fluid Intake
• Decrease Salt Intake
• Moderate Your Physical Activity
• Eat High Carbohydrate, Low Fat Meals
• Reduce Alcohol and Caffeine Intake
• Feeling Worse?-Seek Help
• Use Sunscreen (SPF 15-30)
• Always Wear Sun Glasses or Goggles
Prevent Cold Injury
• Dress in layers
• Bring Extra Clothes for Sudden Temperature Changes
• Wear Properly Fitting Boots and Gloves
• Avoid Wet Clothing
• Drink and Eat Frequently
• Stop to Warm Up Often
• Watch Each other For Warning Signs