Quandary: Treating altitude sickness
Quandary, the old and wise mountain goat, has been around Summit County for ages, and has the answers to all questions about life, love and laws in the High Country. Have a question for Quandary? Email your queries about Summit and the High Country to Quandary@summitdaily.com.
What causes altitude sickness and what can I do about it?
Altitude sickness, or mountain sickness, as it’s sometimes called, is what happens when you go up in elevation to quickly causing your body to prioritize what needs the air most. Common symptoms include headache, loss of appetite and trouble sleeping. Quandary sometimes experiences these symptoms, too; he just doesn’t complain about them. Altitude sickness often occurs when people who are not used to being in the High Country travel quickly from a lower elevation to 8,000 feet or higher. While you might think the two hours spent on Interstate 70 getting here were long enough, your body might disagree.
You often hear folks say there’s less oxygen to breathe at high elevations, which is mostly true — fact is, there’s less of all of the components that make up the air. The percentage of oxygen, however, in high-altitude air is the same as that in sea-level air — about 21 percent.
Your body has to work harder at high elevation to get the oxygen it needs, so it causes you to breathe faster. That, in turn, causes the headaches and other symptoms. As your body adapts, the symptoms go away.
Mild altitude sickness is common, and experts can’t say who will get it because a person’s level of physical fitness and gender don’t determine who’s affected and who isn’t.
The best treatment is to go to a lower altitude, but if your symptoms are mild you can generally stay at high altitude and wait for the symptoms to go away. Just take it easy. Limit your activity and drink lots of water, but avoid alcohol and fatty foods. When people go on vacation they tend to live on the edge — mostly the edge of healthy. Overdoing it on your gut only makes your body work that much harder, and it has enough to worry about trying to adjust to the altitude.
Do not go to a higher elevation. You can take over-the-counter medications for headache and upset stomach. Recovery from mild symptoms takes anywhere from 12 hours to three or four days.
If you don’t recover, or if your symptoms are severe, see a doctor. They may be able to get you on passive-flow oxygen, which will help to alleviate your symptoms while in the High Country.
Because Quandary didn’t know all of this off the top of his horns, he visited WebMD.com and Altitude.org.
Can i take marijuana I buy legally in Colorado out of the state after my vacation?
While Quandary understands the impulse behind wanting the good times to keep rolling or the novelty of bringing back a unique gift for a friend, consider marijuana to have more of a Las Vegas philosophy: it stays here.
Mary Jane and Colorado have a mutual understanding, but it is illegal to transport across state lines. In fact, it is important to look at the laws in individual cities and counties in Colorado as well, before transporting marijuana in, or through, any community as they will vary from place to place.
One constant is that out-of-state residents with a valid ID, who are over 21, are allowed to purchase one ounce of marijuana for recreational use within the state, but are not allowed to transport any home. So when trying to come up with the perfect present to take home to Grandma think Palisade peaches or Rocky Ford cantaloupe, don’t think dooby.
For additional information about Colorado’s marijuana regulations visit Colorado.gov.
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