Be aware of altitude sickness
By Scott Gerdes
Upon arriving in the heart of Taos, you will be standing at 6,969 feet above sea level. That number is dwarfed by Wheeler Peak’s 13,161 feet, the highest point in New Mexico, just north of town near Taos Ski Valley. All of which can make you feel like you’re on top of the world. The altitude can also make you feel like you have a hangover without having drank.
After driving over a mountain pass, pulling into a mountain resort or alpine hiking, you may get a headache, experience a loss of appetite or restless sleep. This happens most often to people who are not accustomed to going from lower elevations to 8,000 feet or higher (including Taos Ski Valley, Red River and Ange Fire)..
Mild altitude sickness is common. Experts can’t predict who will get it and who won’t. Neither your fitness level nor gender play a role in whether the altitude will affect you.
Altitude sickness occurs when you can’t get enough oxygen from the air at high elevations where the air is “thinner.” When you go too high too fast, your body cannot get as much oxygen as it needs. So you need to breathe faster. This causes a throbbing headache and other symptoms of acute altitude sickness such as poor appetite, nausea, trouble sleeping and dizziness. As your body gets used to the altitude, the symptoms go away. Symptoms can be mild to severe. They may not start until a day after you have been at a high altitude.
Remedies for mild symptoms include Tylenol or aspirin for headache relief, Benadryl or sweetened liquids, such as Ginger Ale, for nausea. If any of symptoms are prolonged medical attention is advised.
Improving acclimation to high altitude includes sleeping at least a night at a lower elevation, which will speed up your body’s process of acclimatizing. Meaning, spend 24 hours in Taos before heading up to the Ski Valley, Red River or Angel Fire.
Sometimes outdoor enthusiasts can’t wait to snowshoe deep into Carson National Forest or get their skis moving down the area’s slopes, but taking it easy the first day or two can make all the difference in how you feel. Stop activity when you begin to get fatigued or experience any prolonged breathlessness.
Food can also help combat altitude sickness. Increase carbohydrate intake (pasta, rice, pancakes) to 70 percent of your daily total calories. It is also recommended to reduce fat intake and stay hydrated.
For the first two nights avoid alcohol, sleeping pills and tranquilizers because they slow your body’s adjustment to elevation.
The best cure for mountain sickness is to either slow way down and let your body acclimatize naturally for 24-48 hours or descent when symptoms present themselves.
Inhale 02 Oxygen Bar (inside Hive Salon)
300 Kit Carson Road, Taos
Open 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Tues.-Sat., or by appointment