First time in the mountains?

Estes Park is located at 7,522 feet (2,293 m) above sea level. Altitude sickness, also called acute mountain sickness or AMS, can occur as low as 6,500 feet (2,000 m). While the textbooks might tell you that it is unusual for people to experience altitude sickness below 8,000 feet (2,400 meters), anyone who lives in Estes Park will tell you that it is a common occurrence here.

Prevention

The best way to prevent altitude sickness is to ascend to higher elevations slowly. For example, if you are driving to Estes Park from sea level, you may want to spend a night or two in Denver.

Once you arrive in Estes, you should plan on avoiding exertion for the first day or so. You should also wait until later in your trip to drive over Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park (which has a high point of 12,183 ft [3700 m]), or to climb any mountain peaks.

And, most importantly, you should drink lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of WATER! Drink water until you can drink no more! That alone can prevent altitude sickness.

Treatment

The best treatment for altitude sickness is to descend to lower elevation. For mild cases, however, that usually isn’t necessary.

Giving yourself plenty of opportunity to rest and drinking a ton (we mean a TON) of water are the next best things you can do. By a TON of water, we mean keep drinking until your urine is clear. That may mean half a gallon or more. Most of us aren’t hydrated enough as it is, and high altitude exacerbates that. So drink lots and lots and lots of water and mark all the restrooms on your map before you get here. :) We can’t stress this enough! Water water water water water!!!

Avoid drinking caffeine or alcohol. Mild analgesics, such as Tylenol, can also help, but water and rest are your best bets. Keeping a bit of food in your stomach between meals is a good idea too. Altitude sickness will usually subside within a few hours, and mostly disappear within a day or so.

Kathy BoydComment