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Ski Sickness: What You Should Know!

Many people hit the slopes when the temperatures drop and snow begins to fall. Some people develop ski sickness without knowing the condition exists. It’s important to be aware of ski sickness and to learn what you can do to prevent it.

It may not shock you to learn most people don’t know what ski sickness is. However, they may have heard of the term altitude sickness or mountain sickness; they are the same condition. Altitude or ski sickness is an illness associated with spending time in high altitudes without the body being allowed to adjust to the altitude changes gradually.

Acute ski sickness can be as simple as a mild headache and feeling fatigued. Since more people are spending time in higher altitudes for skiing and mountain climbing, this condition is coming more to the forefront of health concerns. Symptoms of acute altitude sickness include any of the following:

* Headache
* Fatigue
* Dizziness
* Insomnia
* Shortness of breath
* Nausea
* Decreased appetite
* Swelling of extremities

Many people with these symptoms don’t recognize them for what they are. They may claim the symptoms are from bad food, a hangover, or having an uncomfortable bed. If you’re in a higher altitude than you normally live, you may want to consider the symptoms as part of acute altitude or ski sickness.

Ski sickness can also lead to something as serious as a build-up of fluids in the lungs, which can be life-threatening. This is called high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE). The condition causes breathing to be labored and can develop quickly, often within the first or second night of being in a higher altitude. Other symptoms include having gurgling respirations, possible fever, or wet cough. If someone develops symptoms of acute ski sickness and fails to recognize them, they may become worse if not treated. This can quickly result in respiratory collapse and possibly death.

High altitude cerebral edema (HACE) is another form of severe ski sickness. In this case, fluids build up around the brain instead of the lungs. The person may notice a change in their mental state including being confused and the person may not be able to keep up with others. If unrecognized and left untreated, HACE can result in the loss of co-ordination, receding into a coma, or death.

It is possible to reduce your chances of developing any of the forms of altitude sickness by taking your time when ascending to elevations higher than 8,000 feet above sea level. In fact, ascending faster than 1,000 feet of elevation per day may be the outer limit one would attempt. Avoid physical exertion for 24 hours after reaching elevation, hypothermia, or consuming too much alcohol or other sedatives. Also recommended is to eat a diet high in carbohydrates while in higher elevations.

If you notice any of the above symptoms of ski sickness, take time to rest at your current elevation for at least 24 hours before continuing on. Seek medical help immediately if you have shortness of breath at rest, mental confusion, or loss of muscle co-ordination. The change to a lower altitude may do the trick, but you don’t want to take a chance of developing more severe symptoms.

Skiing on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains is a thrill sought after by many people each year. However, many people don’t recognize the dangers that may befall them. It’s important to be aware of ski sickness (or altitude sickness), its symptoms and what to do about them so you can enjoy your trip.

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