Here’s What To Take for Altitude Sickness in Denver (Colorado)


12 Apr 2024

Denver (Colorado) sits at an impressive elevation of 5,280 feet above sea level. 

If you ascend any higher – especially the nearby mountains – altitude sickness can become a serious concern. So, what should you take, and how do you prepare?

This article will cover the 8 basics – so you can travel to the Mile High City and surrounding resort towns, without major risk of headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue and more.

1) Prepare for Acclimatization

Acclimatization is the process of allowing your body to slowly get used to the lower oxygen levels at high altitudes. It’s a crucial step to prevent altitude sickness. 

Planning for a gradual ascent to higher elevations over several days can give your body the time it needs to adjust. For those heading straight to Denver, consider taking it easy for the first few days. Limit physical activity and give your body a chance to adapt to the elevation before engaging in more strenuous activities.

Also, be aware of popular city & mountain peak heights in Colorado, which include:

  • Leadville – 10,152 feet at base (11,500 at peak)
  • Copper Mountain – 9,712 feet at base (12,441 at peak)
  • Breckenridge – 9,600 feet at base (12,998 at peak)
  • Keystone – 9,280 feet at base (12,408 at peak)
  • Aspen – 7,908 feet at base (11,675 at peak)
  • Telluride – 8,750 feet at base (14,000 at peak)
  • Steamboat Springs – 6,732 feet at base (10,568 at peak)
  • Crested Butte – 8,909 feet at base (12,168 at peak)
  • Durango – 6,512 feet at base (8,500 at peak)

If you have a history of altitude sickness, or are unsure of how high altitudes might affect you, make sure to prepare ahead of time – as we’ll outline below.

2) Altitude Sickness Medication

Diamox (Acetazolamide) is a medication strongly recommended to prevent and reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness – a common traveler favorite.

It works by helping your body adjust faster to high altitudes. Taking Diamox before your trip to Denver can significantly lower your chances of experiencing altitude sickness. 

  • This medication is typically started 24 to 48 hours before you ascend to a high elevation, and 
  • It’s then continued for at least 48 hours after you’ve reached your highest point. 
  • As with any medication, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider to ensure it’s safe for you, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions or are taking other medications.

Diamox Price

3) Hydration Strategies to Avoid Elevation Sickness

Staying hydrated is more important than usual when you’re at high elevations, like Denver. The dry air and lower oxygen levels can lead to quicker dehydration, which in turn can exacerbate symptoms of altitude sickness. 

Aim to drink at least 2-3 liters of water daily, starting a few days before your trip and continuing throughout your stay. Avoid or limit drinks that can dehydrate you, like alcohol and caffeine, especially during your first few days at high altitude. Keeping a water bottle with you at all times can serve as a constant reminder to drink water regularly.

4) Balanced Diet + Nutrition Should Not Be Ignored

Your diet can also play a role in how well you adjust to high altitudes. Foods rich in potassium can help mitigate some symptoms of altitude sickness, such as:

  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Leafy greens

Complex carbohydrates, found in whole grains and pasta, provide steady energy and are easier for your body to digest, which is important since digestion can be slower at high altitudes. 

Try to eat smaller, more frequent meals to maintain energy levels and aid in acclimatization. Avoid heavy, fatty foods that can make you feel sluggish and more susceptible to altitude sickness symptoms.

5) Know How to Identify + Respond to Altitude Sickness Symptoms

Recognizing the early symptoms of altitude sickness is key to managing it effectively. Symptoms can include headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, and difficulty sleeping. 

If you or someone you’re with starts showing signs of altitude sickness, the best immediate response is to descend to a lower elevation if possible and rest. Increasing fluid intake and avoiding strenuous activity can also help alleviate symptoms. If symptoms persist or worsen, seek medical attention as severe altitude sickness can be life-threatening. 

Remember, altitude sickness can affect anyone, regardless of fitness level or age, so it’s important to monitor your health and take symptoms seriously.

6) Create a Gradual Acclimatization Schedule for Denver Visitors

For those visiting Denver and planning to explore higher elevations, creating a gradual acclimatization schedule can be beneficial. 

  1. Start by spending a few days in Denver itself to allow your body to adjust to the Mile High City’s altitude. 
  2. Then, if you plan to hike or visit areas at higher elevations, do so incrementally. 
  3. For example, you might visit locations at 6,000 to 7,000 feet before tackling activities above 8,000 feet. 

This gradual approach helps reduce the risk of altitude sickness and makes your adjustment to higher elevations smoother.

7) Adjust Your Exercise Routine

When you’re in Denver or other high-altitude locations, it’s important to modify your physical activity to account for the thinner air (if you plan to exercise). 

Start any exercise routine slowly, and pay close attention to how your body responds. Light to moderate activities, such as walking or gentle hiking, are ideal for the first few days. Avoid intense workouts until you feel fully adjusted. Listening to your body is key; if you feel unusually short of breath or fatigued, take it as a sign to rest and acclimate for a longer period.

8) Create a Packing List of Essentials for a Healthy Denver Visit

Preparing for a trip to Denver means packing with altitude in mind. Here’s a checklist to ensure you have a healthy visit:

  • Water bottle: Staying hydrated is key, so bring a durable water bottle to refill throughout your trip.
  • Altitude sickness medication: If you’re planning to use Diamox, bring it along, but remember to start taking it according to your doctor’s instructions, which may include before you arrive.
  • Moisturizer and lip balm: Denver’s air can be dry, so these will help keep your skin and lips hydrated.
  • Layered clothing: Weather can change rapidly, so layers will help you adjust to varying temperatures.
  • First-aid kit: Include basic supplies, along with any personal medications.
  • Snacks: High-energy, nutritious snacks can help maintain your energy levels while you acclimate.

By following these guidelines and preparing properly, you can enjoy all the beauty and adventure Denver has to offer – while minimizing the risk of altitude sickness.

However, if Symptoms Escalate:

Severe symptoms can include confusion, inability to walk in a straight line, shortness of breath even at rest, and coughing up froth. These signs indicate the possibility of high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE) or high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), both of which are medical emergencies. 

Descend to a lower altitude as safely and quickly as possible and seek medical attention immediately. 

Keep in mind – the vast majority of travelers don’t experience severe effects of altitude sickness when the above precautions are followed. Always err on the side of caution when it comes to altitude sickness.

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