Common Myths About High-Altitude Travel

3 min read

older ski couple drinking wine

Whether you’re skiing, hiking or visiting a world-famous summit, there’s nothing quite as rewarding as high-altitude travel. But, as with any adventure, these trips come with a few risks. 

The challenge is to identify what risks are real.

There are many common misconceptions regarding high-altitude and adventure traveling, especially when it comes to food preparation and nutrition. Following the wrong guidelines or worrying about the wrong problems can be distracting and confusing. And when you worry about the wrong issues you run the risk of not addressing real problems that may derail your trip. 

Be mindful of your drinking at high altitude, and understand that your body is simply adjusting to new conditions. But don’t be afraid to enjoy an après-ski glass of wine. 

By knowing what NOT to worry about, you’ll be able to focus your attention on real concerns – like staying safe and having fun! 

To help you gain perspective and clarity, follwing are five common misconceptions about high-altitude travel.

Fitness Prevents Altitude Sickness

There’s no doubt that fitness is essential for high-altitude travel. Whether hiking or skiing, good cardio, strength and flexibility will prevent injury and keep you agile throughout your journey. However, being fit does not prevent altitude sickness. Even the healthiest athlete can succumb to the condition. The key is to pace your trip, monitor your nutrition, take the right supplements and watch for early signs of the illness so you can treat it accordingly.

Coffee and tea cause dehydration.

While both coffee and tea are diuretics, they aren’t likely to contribute to dehydration in any significant way. That said, if your M.O. is to drink a sludge-like cup of Joe every hour, then yes, you will suffer. But when consumed with the right amount of water and nutrients, your morning caffeine fix should not be a source of concern.

Hydration Prevents Altitude Sickness. 

Definitely not. Sure, every high-altitude travel expert will talk to you about hydration, because it’s really important. Dehydration can cause myriad symptoms that could ruin your trip and even put you in the hospital. But proper hydration will not prevent altitude sickness.  

If anything, staying hydrated will help you stay healthy enough to identify the symptoms of altitude sickness, if it occurs. Also, remember that overhydration is problematic.

Consume the recommended gallon of water a day and take water breaks throughout your journey, and you’ll have avoid one potential problem that could lead to others.

It’s Easier to Get Intoxicated at High Altitude

What you’re feeling might not be inebriation. Lack of oxygen at high altitude can make you feel dizzy, weak and light-headed. Add to this the side effects of alcohol and you could wind up feeling quite tipsy, but you are not drunker than you would be at sea level.  

What you’re experiencing are symptoms from two different causes merging together. The same feelings might occur if you drank at home while also feeling a little under the weather. Be mindful of your drinking at high altitude, and understand that your body is simply adjusting to new conditions. But don’t be afraid to enjoy an après-ski glass of wine. 

Some people believe that doing short hikes at resting stations will expedite acclimatization and prevent altitude sickness. They do not. If anything, this practice stresses the body, making you more susceptible to illness and injury. 

The truth is that altitude sickness is best prevented with the right pacing, scheduled rests and proper supplements. Staying healthy and safe on a high-altitude journey also requires breaks for recuperation. Remember, rest is essential to your fitness and health.

Identifying the common myths associated with high-altitude adventure gives you a level of clarity necessary to plan and prepare for your next trip. Yes, when it comes to high-altitude travel there’s a lot to think about; just be sure to think about the most important things. With the right fitness, nutrition, supplements and gear, you’ll be ready to tackle that trip of a lifetime.

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