High Altitude Sickness Prevention and Remedies

As some of you already know from my Instagram stories, I have felt less-than-awesome acclimating to the high altitude (9600 feet) in Breckenridge, CO.  We come to Breck a lot because we have a little place here; I love this little town and community.  In the past, it generally has taken me 2-3 days to acclimate.  This time, however, I felt headachy, lethargic and icky for 6+ days.

So icky in fact that I had Mr. UpCyclist bring me to Urgent Care just to make sure I wasn't overlooking something (eg: brain swelling, lung issue, blurred vision....all symptoms which can be extreme effects of high altitude sickness).  For me to ask to go to Urgent Care means something is not right.  Though I like doctors and nurses, I rarely ask to see them.

Breckenridge - BOEC lake

The good news is yes, I just have "normal" high altitude sickness. the doctor confirmed.  Not extreme, whew.   And, here's what has helped and what remedies I will consider for the future prevention:

  • Pure oxygen:  My oxygen level was a tiny bit off at 93 (normal is 95 or higher), so the Urgent Care staff did give me oxygen through my nose which brought my oxygen level to 100.  I did not need to bring a small oxygen tank home with me.
  • High Altitude Medication - Acetazolamide 125 mg (two tablets a day for six days):  Evidently, this medication works even better when you take it 2-3 days before traveling to high altitude.  I think I will try this next time; take it a few days before I leave Maryland if my physician agrees. 
  • Chlorophyll Drops: I've taken these before (they are bright, bright green) drops; you can buy them at Whole Foods or Amazon.  I totally forgot about these drops this trip.  I think this drops could be a great alternative to a prescription drug and I'm wishing I would have remembered them this trip.
  • Gatorade or Pedialyte - The nurse reminded me that when acclimating, a 1-to-1 water to Gatorade or Pedialyte is the way to go because the body needs the extra electrolytes and salt.  She suggested one glass of water, one glass of Gatorade/Pedialyte (and keep doing that all day).  By the way, I am a sucker for grape flavored Gatorade.  It's my favorite and reminds me of grape Koolaid - a personal fav of mine in college!
  • Clif Shot Bloks with Extra Sodium - A dear friend outside of Denver said these are her go-to to combat high altitude sickness.  I want to try this (maybe) now and definitely want to bring a few packs with me in the future.  Plus, Margarita flavored?!  Um...yes!
  • Liquid IV - Just the name of this product intrigues me.  The same friend who rec'd the Clif Shot Bloks spoke highly of this hydration powder.  I'd give it a try for sure - maybe instead of Gatorade (or maybe in addition to...) next trip.
  • Coca Tea - When I lived in Ecuador decades ago and climbed Cotapaxi (19,000 ft), I felt like holy heck hours before we took off to climb. Since Cotapaxi is a glaciered volcano, climbers leave to climb the volcano around midnight.  Around 7pm I felt like total junk, so the lovely refugio employee (a refugio is like a hostel) saw me struggling and made me coca tea.  Although the coca plant is the same plant used to extract alkaloids for cocaine, the raw leaves of the plant have very low alkaloids levels and the tea helped me acclimate and feel better within an hour.  If you travel to the Andes in South America, keep an eye out for coca tea.
What about you?  Do you have any favorite high altitude sickness remedies or prevention suggestions?  Find me on Instagram or Facebook if you do.

With love from Breckenridge,