For those who live in flat areas and eager to go on hiking or camping on areas with high elevation, there are measures to help acclimatize successfully to high altitude conditions. Acclimation or acclimatization is a process in which the body adapts physiologically to various environmental conditions.
In most cases, it is possible to start to feel the effects of altitude at elevations higher than 5,000 feet above sea level. On the other hand, individual responses tend to vary thus some individuals might not feel the effects until 8,000 feet or more above sea level.
Shortness of breath is the most usual effect but some individuals might also feel lightheaded or experience headaches or difficulty sleeping while adjusting to an area with higher altitude. Depending on the current fitness level, altitude and physiology, various preparation measures can be used, but these tactics for acclimatization to high altitude conditions can help fight off the adverse effects.
Increased endurance and fitness
Remember that oxygen is less dense at higher elevations than at sea level, thus when an individual moves from sea level to a higher altitude, the oxygen demand on the body is higher. Take note that the higher the elevation, the more oxygen the body needs.
You can prepare the body ahead of time to cope effectively with these conditions by increasing the level of endurance and fitness. The individual should improve his/her level of fitness by focusing on aerobic exercise to increase the body’s capacity to carry oxygen.
Start preparing several weeks or even months before setting off on a hiking or camping trip on areas with high altitudes. The main principle to bear in mind is to acclimatize in a gradual manner.
Ascending too fast is a common issue why many individuals get sick at high altitudes. If possible, take a break and sleep overnight at an intermediate elevation. In case the individual continues to ascend higher than 10,000 feet, try to limit any increase in the sleeping elevation to 1,000 feet every night. If the individual continues to ascend over several weeks, allow 2-3 nights of sleep in a week at the same elevation as the night before for proper acclimatization.
Additional tips on acclimatization
- Descend to an area of lower altitude and consult a doctor if the individual experiences symptoms of acute mountain sickness such as headache along with 1-2 symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, insomnia, listlessness, appetite loss and dizziness that worsens in an upright position.
- Always keep the lips and skin moist by applying lotion and lip balm on a regular basis.
- Encourage the individual to drink plenty of water while at high altitudes since the dry mountain air along with increased respiratory rate can eventually lead to dehydration.
- Always apply sunscreen and use hats and sunglasses to prevent skin and eye damage. Remember that the rays of the sun are more intense in higher altitudes.
A doctor should be consulted for a customized acclimatization tactics. In addition, consulting a doctor is vital prior to making any big changes to the fitness routines and overall health.