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Old 09-29-2009, 02:51 PM   #1
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Worried about the Colorado altitude! Please help!!

Hello guys! My name is Paul and I live in East Texas! Here is my situation:

I am about to go on a trip with my wife to Colorado. We will leave the last week of October for a whole week. We plan to go to Pikes Peak, Estes Park and Aspen via I-70 west out of Denver. It will be the first time that I've ever set foot on Colorado, so I am very concerned about getting altitude sickness.

I have lived in East Texas almost all of my life, and the altitude here is between 450 and 550 feet. The highest altitude I have ever been in was in far west Texas at a height of 2600 feet. I have been through the Ozarks before, but the altitude in the Ozarks is very low compared to West Texas, let alone the Rocky Mountains. When I do drive through the Ozarks, often times it makes my ears pop when I travel down a hill. Otherwise these places haven't bothered me.

I am 37 years old. I weigh around 300 pounds. I do not smoke. I do often get out of breath and my heart rate goes way up whenever I do heavy lifting or when I walk up hills or do other extensive work. Sometimes I even get out of breath minutes after I eat if I eat a big meal. I have never had a heart attack. I have no known physical disease, but I am trying to recover from a cold. Anytime I have my oxygen checked it is always 100%.

One other thing, I have a bit of an anxiety problem, particularly when I am in areas/stretches of highway where there are no people, houses or development! I start to panic when I am in these areas, my heart rate goes up and I hyperventilate. I am trying to control this mentally using certain ideas on the highway (such as planning my routes thoroughly and zeroing the trip counter whenever leaving a town to know how many miles it will be to get to the next town). I however do not take any medication for this anxiety.

Knowing all of the above, do you think I have to worry about the Colorado altitude? If so, what steps should I take? I look forward to reading any replies on this. Thank you, all!!!

 
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Old 09-29-2009, 04:38 PM   #2
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Re: Worried about the Colorado altitude! Please help!!

HI. As an east coaster who has gone to Colorado a number of times I looked up Altitude Sickness to get some more recent info.

First, High Mountain Sickness(as it is now known)is usually a problem for those climbing mountains as it is a combination of exertion and altitude. But you won't be exerting yourself by driving. However, your weight may cause some exertion for you so watch for any signs of difficulty breathing. That is the first sign and it can be treated with medication.

Pikes Peak is not a place you can stay but you can visit. When you get to Colorado Springs, give yourself a day or 2 to acclamate to the height(higher than Denver) before going up Pikes Peak to see the view. May make you a little light headed but you won't be there long so just come on down. Estes Park is also fairly high so make sure your accomodations are in a low lying area. I-70 is a spectacular ride but if you get nervous when there are no homes, get a grip. The views are spectacular but not exactly a suburb of Denver! Aspen is a cool place to visit but it is high as well. But once you spend a couple of days at the higher levels, you should be okay. Just take it easy and make it a real vacation with no real exertion. No climbing up the ski slopes.

Yes, there is less O2 at higher levels but it is so clean and clear it is worth it. I LOVE Colorado! And I bet you do too after your visit. Relax and enjoy..just take it slowly.

Jenny

 
Old 09-29-2009, 08:52 PM   #3
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Re: Worried about the Colorado altitude! Please help!!

Wonderful post! Makes me want to go back to Colorado...

Last edited by writeleft; 09-29-2009 at 08:53 PM.

 
Old 09-29-2009, 09:30 PM   #4
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Re: Worried about the Colorado altitude! Please help!!

I experienced altitude sickness while in Colorado in January, 2004, but it wasn't so bad that I wouldn't jump at the chance to go again.

My ears popped on the flight and stayed clogged the entire week. (Home alt. is 800ft.)

We stayed in Denver, on the 7th floor of our hotel. Every time I got off the elevator, I was dizzy and lightheaded in the hallway and would have a slight headache, kind of like sinus pressure, but pressure all over, but would be ok once in the room.

The reason I went to Denver for to take a week long class. Every day when I arrived at the school, I would instantly get dizzy, lightheaded, and the headache, as soon as I hit the second step outside the building. But once in the building, I was ok.

When we went to Pikes Peak, the summit was closed due to snow. The turn around point is at a Gift Shop/Restaurant at around 11,000 ft. As soon as we opened the car doors, it hit me, dizzy, lightheaded, and instant headache. I felt as though my head was going to explode. There was an ambulance outside the shop. We saw them wheeling an elderly woman out on a stretcher. Her head and face were covered in blood. I thought, "Oh no, her head DID explode." We went inside the shop to use the restroom. It was temporarily closed because they were cleaning up the woman's blood. To my relief, her head did not explode, but she had gotten dizzy and fallen on her face on the tile floor of the restroom, and had a severe nose bleed. We decided to eat lunch in the restaurant, and I remained lightheaded the entire time. But once in the car, I was ok. If I remember correctly, there is an O2 bar at the summit.

Estes Park didn't bother me a bit. But again, due to the snow, we could not go as far/up into Rocky Mt. National Park as we would have like to. (There is/was an Irish Pub in Estes Park that has awesome food.)

We didn't make it to Aspen.

I have asthma, and in 2004, it was not as under control as it is now. My O2 levels were always low back then. And I've always had low blood pressure. I didn't have any more problems there than I have at home in January.

Pace yourself and enjoy the trip. I really want to go back sometime in late spring or summer. Colorado Springs in the first place I've been that I would consider leaving NC for. Garden of the Gods is spectacular.

 
Old 09-29-2009, 10:08 PM   #5
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Re: Worried about the Colorado altitude! Please help!!

You have received some good information from the other posters.

I'd say that it is certainly worth the trip. I'm originally from the mid-west. Grew up going to the Ozarks frequently. I've been through Colorado many times. It is a wonderful experience.

I moved to a higher altitude about 14 years ago. I have most visitors from back home who do just fine. Some have a bit of trouble with the altitude. If you have a bit of time to acclimate to the lower "high" altitudes before hitting the really high ones that may help. The best thing you can do is hydrate, Hydrate, HYDRATE! Water is the best thing to do for your body in this case.
If you do some internet research you should find out more information on acclimating.

By the way, most people adapt within a day or two.

Have fun!

 
Old 09-30-2009, 03:05 AM   #6
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Re: Worried about the Colorado altitude! Please help!!

I dont think you have any risk of real altitude sickness...... you may find your self a little short of breath, a little light headed, more prone to headaches, and perhaps a bit irritable and snappy.

These might be uncomfortable, but they arnt dangerous.

If you feel breathless, walk more slowly, or sit down and take a rest for 5 minutes.

For headaches, a simple analgesic (Advil, Excedrin) can help.

If you experience chest pain or any other significant symptoms, dont just put it down to the altitude, get it checked out quickly.

 
Old 09-30-2009, 10:41 AM   #7
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Re: Worried about the Colorado altitude! Please help!!

I live in the DFW area and do have a little problem with high altitude. My hypertension specialist told me to rebreathe in paper sack off and on. I am a hidden hyperventilater.

I attached a lunch sack to a 4" plastic tube to make it easier to use. Rebreathe 5 min every hour if necessary.

I did just fine until I decided to walk the treadmill for 1 mi. and became ill. Apparently I did not drink enough water during the day. I am also overweight, 5'2, 200 lb.

I do have to walk slow and not rush. If you take it easy you will be just fine.

Don't worry about the stretches of road without houses, that area is God's country too and he is always with you. Trust and believe and you will be in the best of care.

P.S. we both need to lose weight!!

 
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