June 1, 2020
Due to travel restrictions, plans are only available with travel dates on or after
Due to travel restrictions, plans are only available with effective start dates on or after
Ukraine; Belarus; Moldova, Republic of; (North) Korea, Democratic People's Rep; Russian Federation
Israel; Jamaica; Republic of Ireland; Northern Ireland;
Many of the world’s most intriguing destinations exist at high elevations. For example, Santa Fe, New Mexico is 7,260 feet high. Peru’s Machu Picchu sits at 8,000 feet. Lhasa, Tibet soars almost 12,000 feet into the air.
Whether you plan a leisurely visit or a heavy-duty hiking expedition to similarly-situated locales, the possibility of encountering altitude illness must be a factor in trip planning. Altitude illness occurs when people travel to higher altitudes faster than the body can adapt to lower barometric pressure and the body’s decreasing efficiency in taking in oxygen. Acute mountain sickness is its mildest form, and the one which most non-extreme travelers have to consider. Early symptoms include headaches, fatigue and insomnia. The higher you go without proper acclimatization, the worse symptoms can get. In fact, they can be downright life-threatening.
For those who live at sea level, even arrival in a mile-high city like Denver might cause the onset of minor altitude-related symptoms, like dryness or headache. But for the most part, according to the Centers for Disease Control Yellowbook, “altitude illness sets in when going to 8,000 ft or higher.” The Yellowbook also cautions that susceptibility to altitude illness is often genetic, and risk is not impacted by physical fitness.
If you are planning a trip to an altitude in the neighborhood of 10,000 feet, here are some tips to prepare. Note that extreme trips to altitudes above 10,000 feet will likely require additional precautions and strategies.
Most travelers heading to high altitude tourism hot spots (as opposed to those scaling mountains) can acclimatize naturally just by taking it slow. Sometimes an aspirin is all it takes to fend off altitude-related headaches. However, if you have medicals issues, or you have previously suffered from altitude sickness, it’s best to check with a doctor or a travel medicine clinic in advance about the options. There are some prescription drugs that help the body adjust. Holistic remedies include natural supplements like ginkgo biloba, ginger, or coca leaves.
For a list of travel medicine clinics in the United States, visit the Traveler’s Health section of the Center for Disease Control website. And to cover all the bases, buy travel insurance in case the precautions you take do not fend off the necessity of seeking out medical care on a high-altitude trip.
Laura Powell is a travel expert based in Washington, DC. You can read more on her blog: The Daily Suitcase.