Ask a Respiratory Therapist? How’s the Air Up There?

Are you or a loved one planning a trip to Colorado to visit family or go skiing over the Holidays? Don’t forget the oxygen! While the percentage of oxygen in the Colorado air is actually the same as sea level, the concentration of oxygen molecules in the air is diluted and makes the air we breathe "thinner."

What’s normal?

When anyone comes to altitude, it’s normal for the body to react in certain ways; our respiratory rate increases, our heart rate accelerates and our kidneys eliminate more fluids causing us to become dehydrated. When we go up in altitude too quickly, our body goes into overdrive and gets overloaded with this new amount of work it has to do. What happens next is that we get sick.

What is Altitude Sickness?

Acute Mountain Sickness is actually a grouping of symptoms that occur when we ascend above 8,000 feet in altitude. For many people, the symptoms of AMS can occur at lower elevations, such as the city of Denver at 5,280 feet. AMS is an unusual illness in that it can affect people of varying ages, gender and fitness levels. Even the fittest of athletes might succumb to AMS.

What are the symptoms of AMS?

The primary symptom of AMS is headache, but it’s important to notice other symptoms, as well. These include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rapid pulse, shortness of breath, weakness or fatigue, dizziness or lightheadedness and difficulty sleeping.

How can I avoid getting Altitude Sickness?

Talk to your doctor before you make your trip; see if he or she wants you to travel with a Portable Oxygen Concentrator. He or she may also recommend getting in a little more exercise before you hit the road to the High Country. It is recommended that people come to a lower elevation at first, such as Denver, and acclimate in our beautiful city for a few days before heading up to the mountains. Once here, take it easy! Make sure that you stay hydrated and try to avoid alcohol…if you can.

What should I do if I get sick? 

Always consult a medical professional to make sure that what you are dealing with is, in fact, Altitude Sickness. 

Are there any cures for altitude sickness?

Yes! Oxygen Therapy and returning to a lower altitude will help to reverse the symptoms in a few days.

Where can I get oxygen for my trip?

American Medical Sales & Rentals, of course! With your doctor’s prescription for oxygen, we would be happy to provide you with an oxygen concentrator that will make your stay more enjoyable. Our rentals are also available to get you home! Just ship the machine back to us after you arrive home. Remember: when you breathe easier, we breathe easier!

About Scott Ridl: Scott joined American Medical Sales and Rentals in 2008 as a Web Manager and Content Writer. He is a writer and designer. He is extensively trained on oxygen therapy products from leading manufacturers such as Inogen, Respironics, Chart, Invacare, ResMed and more. Scott works closely with respiratory therapists and oxygen specialists to educate the community about oxygen therapy products, COPD, asthma and lung diseases. He writes weekly columns and is passionate about educating the community on oxygen therapy and respiratory issues.

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