For new residents and guests of the high country 

 ALTITUDE SICKNESS

Symptoms:  throbbing headache, no appetite, nausea/vomiting, weakness, dizziness, not sleeping well, feels like a hangover or the flu

Treatment:  go to a lower altitude, limit activity, drink lots of water, over-the-counter medication for headache

Action:  if symptoms worsen, seek medical care immediately

 

HAPE / HACE

Occasionally altitude sickness can develop into the serious conditions of high altitude pulmonary edema, or HAPE, and high altitude cerebral edema, or HACE.  HACE, though rare, is the most serious form of high altitude sickness.

Symptoms of HAPE:  fluid build-up in the lungs, shortness of breath even at rest, a gurgling sound in the lungs, blue fingernails

Action:  seek medical attention

Symptoms of HACE:  fluid build-up on the brain, confusion or disorientation, changes in behavior, staggering, hallucinations

Action:  get to a lower elevation immediately;  seek medical attention

 

GIARDIASIS

Do not drink untreated water from rivers, streams;  high risk of giardia (microscopic parasite) infection.  Symptoms can last up to 6 weeks if untreated by a doctor.  Dogs can also get giardia infection and must be treated by a veterinarian.

Tips:  pack your own water when hiking, camping

Symptoms:  diarrhea, nausea, bloating, headache, vomiting

 

DEHYDRATION

Moisture from skin and lungs evaporates faster in the dry air and low pressure of high altitudes.

Tips:  drink plenty of water

Symptoms:  similar to altitude sickness

 

HEAT EXHAUSTION/STROKE

Tips:  dress in layers for varying weather;  wear sunglasses, lip balm SPF 15, sunscreen

Symptoms:  fatigue, nausea, headache, excessive thirst, confusion, dizziness, flushed skin, rapid heartbeat, muscle cramps, dark-colored urine, profuse sweating

Treatment:  get to air-conditioning/shady area, rest, drink plenty of water, cool shower/sponge bath, remove tight clothing, apply ice towels

Action:  get medical care immediately;  delay of severe cases can be fatal

 

SUNBURN

The sun’s rays are strongest and can cause the most skin burning between 10 am – 4 pm.

Tips:  use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher—apply liberally every 2 hours;  wear sunglasses that provide full protection from UVA and UVB rays;  use lip balm with an SPF of 15 or higher—apply liberally often;  wear a wide brimmed hat

 

ORTHOPEDIC INJURY

Treatment:  for foot/ankle injury:  shoe is stabilizer;  for musculoskeletal injuries (broken bones):  stabilize, ice, elevate;  over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, timely evaluation

Action:  if open fracture (bone punctured skin), get medical care immediately, high risk of infection

 

WATER SAFETY

Tips:  wear a life jacket in/around water;  river rapids are strong and dangerous;  supervise children at all times

 

SNAKE BITES

Treatment:  hospitals carry anti-venom

Action:  get medical care immediately;  delay could lead to loss of limb or death

 

CAFFEINE / ALCOHOL

Both substances will affect your body  more quickly and with a much smaller amount than you can handle at low altitudes.

 

REFERENCES

St. Thomas More Hospital / Centura Health.  “Royal Gorge Health & Wellness.”  Colorado:             Royal Gorge Region 2013.  Page 46.  www.royalgorgetravel.com.

Van Dusen, Laura.  “Living in the High Country.”  Newcomer’s Guide 2013.  A publication of            The Flume.  Page 22.  www.theflume.com.