How to Adjust to Altitude Changes When Visiting Colorado

How to Adjust to Altitude Changes When Visiting Colorado

Are you imagining things, or is it harder to breathe in Colorado?

Don’t worry – it’s not just you. When you travel to higher altitudes, such as those found throughout our mountainous state, the air pressure decreases. This results in a lower concentration of oxygen, making it harder for your body to extract sufficient oxygen. 

That’s why it’s important to help your body acclimate to Colorado’s high altitudes – and that starts with researching strategies before your trip begins. 

In this blog post, we’re diving deeper into the dangers of altitude changes in Colorado, but we’re also sharing tips for staying healthy and feeling better throughout your vacation.  

Understanding Altitude Sickness 

Perhaps the biggest danger associated with traveling in mountain regions is altitude sickness and its potential complications. This condition occurs when you ascend to high elevations too quickly, resulting in a significant decrease in oxygen levels in the body. 

common symptoms of altitude sickness

Common symptoms of altitude sickness include:

  • Headache
  • Difficulty Sleeping 
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Fatigue & Dizziness
  • Rapid Pulse
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Nausea, Diarrhea, or Vomiting

Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is the most common form of altitude sickness. Researchers estimate that it occurs in nearly 50% of people who live at low altitudes and sleep at altitudes above 10,000 feet and in approximately 25% of those sleeping above 8,000 feet. Some individuals can even develop AMS as low as 6,500 feet. 

In severe cases of AMS, altitude sickness can progress to more serious conditions such as high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) or high altitude cerebral edema (HACE). Both of these require immediate medical attention, so watch for any of the symptoms we just listed and contact a healthcare provider if they worsen. 

It’s worth noting that some individuals are more susceptible to altitude sickness than others. If you’ve experienced the condition before, or you are older or in poor physical shape, your risk of AMS can increase. 

Tips for Adjusting to Altitude Changes 

tip for adjusting to altitude changes

By far, the best way to avoid altitude sickness is to implement preventative strategies from the beginning of your trip. Here are some of the top tips for adjusting carefully to mountain conditions. 

Ascend Gradually 

Give your body time to adapt to the changes in oxygen levels and avoid rapid ascents, especially if you’re coming from lower elevations. People who are especially prone to AMS may even want to stay below 7,000 feet for the first day or two of their trips.

Take It Easy at First 

Colorado might be home to some of the world’s best hiking trails, skiing, and outdoor activities, but don’t rush headlong into strenuous exercise. It takes an average of one to three days for bodies to acclimate to new altitudes, which means you’ll need to wait before exerting yourself too much. 

Stay Hydrated

Higher elevations can increase fluid loss through respiration and perspiration, making adequate water intake crucial for mitigating and preventing altitude sickness symptoms.

Prioritize Balanced Nutrition

Before and during your Colorado vacation, try to maintain a balanced diet rich in carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats. Consuming foods high in carbohydrates can provide your body with the energy it needs to adapt to altitude changes effectively.

Get Adequate Sleep

Quality sleep helps support your body’s adaptation process. Aim for at least seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep per night during your trip, and avoid exhausting yourself too much during the first few days. 

Consider Medications

In some cases, medications like acetazolamide (Diamox) may be prescribed to prevent or alleviate altitude sickness symptoms. Of course, you should always consult with a healthcare professional before using any medications for altitude adjustment.

Avoid Alcohol and Smoking

During your high-altitude travels, minimize alcohol consumption and avoid smoking. Both can exacerbate altitude sickness symptoms by impairing oxygen uptake and increasing dehydration. 

By following these tips and taking a proactive approach to altitude adjustment, you can significantly reduce your risk of altitude sickness while exploring high-altitude destinations like Colorado. 

Remember to continuously listen to your body and prioritize your health, and if you start to feel unwell, maybe take a step down – literally. 

How Can Oxygen Concentrators Help?

a woman using an oxygen concentrator

Altitude sickness and trouble breathing are common issues among travelers. In fact, the CDC states that about 25% of visitors to elevations greater than 8,000 feet in Colorado experience AMS. 

As a result, many vacationers opt for oxygen therapy – a medical treatment that delivers supplemental oxygen to people experiencing low oxygen levels. 

If you or a loved one is suffering from AMS or other altitude-related symptoms, we highly encourage you to look into oxygen concentrators. These medical devices can quickly deliver oxygen to the body’s tissues, helping to alleviate altitude sickness symptoms and even prevent certain medical emergencies. 

Planning Your Colorado Trip 

Before embarking on your Colorado adventure, take time to research the altitudes of your intended destinations across the state. How fast will you be ascending, and do you need to leave wiggle room for acclimation time between destinations? 

If you have pre-existing health conditions or concerns, consult a healthcare professional before your trip to discuss any potential risks and necessary precautions. Trust us: awareness and planning are half the battle when it comes to altitude adjustments.

In Summary  

Trips to high altitudes aren’t always easy. If you want to feel your best and stay safe during your trip to Colorado, you need to prepare for significant elevation changes.

Having Trouble Breathing in Colorado?

Whether you’re visiting on a ski trip or a hiking adventure, you want to feel great and stay safe – and we’re here to help with that. 

Alpine Oxygen delivers oxygen concentrators throughout Colorado, from Breckenridge and Aspen to Crested Butte and Steamboat. Our goal is to provide quick relief from altitude sickness and help you breathe easier wherever you are.  

If you’re experiencing negative side effects from altitude changes, or if you know you likely will during your next trip, reserve your oxygen concentrator now. Although we do offer same-day rentals, it’s always best to secure your equipment ahead of time.

Got questions? We’ve got answers! Email us at today. 

Avatar of Joe Hope

Joe Hope

Joe Hope is the founder and owner of Alpine Oxygen, a leading provider of oxygen concentrator rentals for visitors to the Colorado Rockies and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. With a deep understanding of the challenges posed by high altitude, Joe has dedicated his business to helping travelers breathe easier and enjoy their mountain adventures to the fullest since 2005.