Altitude sickness at not so high altitude?? Dehydration?


Original Post
Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 120

EDIT: Most likely not altitude. Read on!

I am chagrined to say I had my first ever bout of altitude sickness recently, on my first trip to City of Rocks. It was mild, as these things go, but still cost me a day of climbing, because I didn't want to push it and ruin the trip for others.

I live at about 2500, City is only around 6500, I believe. Everything up from Boise (destinations to go play) is 6000-7500 for the valleys, and I have never had an issue at any place until now. 

I am oldish, but pretty fit. I do have bp on the low end of normal, and, in our record heat this summer, I most definitely have been struggling with keeping hydrated and not overheating.

Any thing you can throw my way would be helpful and encouraging. Thanks, guys!

Yes, I could Google this, but the info is all assuming you're above 10,000 feet, not a little jaunt just higher than my normal.

Best, Helen

mcarizona · · Flag · Joined Feb 2007 · Points: 25

I find snacking gets me through the tough times.  My body starts to complain at 11,5.  Bag of carrots, peanuts, an apple or chocolates often keeps my outlook positive.  Maybe you did have heat exhaustion. - get well!

Steve

ErikaNW · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 40

I've always struggled with altitude - I've found hydration is the key for me. I use a hydration pack for any hiking at elevation (including approach hikes) as I drink a lot more than if I have to dig a bottle out of my pack. Could be you're a little run down too - always seems to make me more susceptible if I'm tired or on the edge of coming down with something. Feel better!

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 136

I've experienced altitude sickness at several elevations ranging from 10000ish to 130000 and I love a little under 7000 so that's even less of an altitude difference than you, although at a higher elevation. Altitude affects everyone differently, some have few issues if  any and others, like me, just can't handle it.

I'll second the hydration pack recommendation. For me, it makes a huge difference of I'm taking a small sip of water every minute or two as opposed to stopping every half hour or hour to drain a water bottle. I think my body is more efficient with water with the small steady stream than huge infrequent busts. Since I take a diuretic daily, my body's water efficiency is a very big factor. 

In my experience a slower, more steady will relieve our at least delay symptoms. Also, smaller, more frequent meals helps me with AMS related nausea

Oh and also, make sure you are well rested in the days leading up to your trip

Dharma Bum · · Glen Haven, Co · Joined Jul 2008 · Points: 430

Is it possible you had low electrolytes from trying to stay hydrated?  The symptoms are similar.  We live at 7300 feet and on a backpacking trip in Canyonlands at about 6000 ft, my wife started to get dizzy and have a headache.  We figured out she was drinking a lot of water without enough compensatory electrolytes.

JaredG · · Tucson, AZ · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 0

I struggle with altitude and frankly I'm not sure there's much you can do about it.  I try to eat frequently, mostly complex carbs, because I have a hunch it helps me retain the water better (above 12000 feet or so water just seems to pass right through me).  This may be obvious but hitting the aerobic redline is a big no-no -- take it easy and take breaks.

Eli · · Lives in a truck · Joined Nov 2010 · Points: 2,476

I'd guess it's not altitude sickness at 6500.

Allen Sanderson · · Oootah · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 1,115

I too doubt that you had AMS. But then again you have not described any of your signs and symptoms other than struggling with keeping hydrated and not overheating.

When I am dehydrated I get headaches and feel like crap. Certainly not AMS. 

Jimmy Sledd · · Bozeman, Montana · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 5

Doping! Call Lance Armstrong and get some EPO.

Not much you can really do other than spend more time up at high altitude and do more cardio so you have a greater circulatory reserve. I've seen very fit people get AMS under 10k feet. I've gotten it at 14k and it sucks. Wish you the best. 

Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 81

From the sounds of it, you were probably just acclimatizing. AMS doesn't typically onset at that low of altitudes, so first I'd look for other potential issues. Athesma, bonking, sickness, low electrolytes, etc. To really know you would have to check a pulse oximeter  

For altitude, here are a few of my tips. Keep in mind, I'm taking about acclimatization from sea level to 20,000ft, so these might be a little more drastic than what you need. 

1) No drinking alcohol for at least 5 days prior.

2) Drinking 4-5L a day prior to embarking on the climb, and then as much as reasonably possible while on the climb.

3) Taking lots of vitamins and minerals before the climb. On multiday climbs, Vitamin C and Iron seems to be very good before and during. I take BCAAs each night of the climb to help with muscle repair. 

4) Popping a Benadryl at night to sleep really well at altitude  

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 120

So, here's how this played out.

Yes, I've been somewhat beaten down for weeks, we've had a stupid hot summer and I had to fill in for someone on a job that meant being out in it and doing physical work. 10-11 additional shifts over about 6 weeks. Courier work, so I was driving and in and out of a hot vehicle, shifting loads in and out, to the tune of about 6,000 pounds each shift. In 100° heat.

Fighting through that, trying not to dehydrate or overheat, a mountaineer friend got me on to nuun tablets. Those have helped.

Finally done with the extra work, I took this overnight trip, which I really needed. Lots of small, but stressful crap for too long.

We arrived at midday, met our people, got organized and got some climbing in. Warm, so we stayed in the shade, and everyone was chugging water, myself included.

I didn't have the tablets, so yes, the electrolytes would be part of it, also generally worn out. I never quite had enough to eat, either.

Mild nausea most of the time (one of my responses to heat).

That night, I did not sleep at all. My heart rate was up, my respiration was up, not alarmingly so, but still, while I was laying there doing nothing. Never a real headache, but I was going that way (headaches are very rare for me).

Going out the next day was definitely a real slog. I didn't even try to climb, just tried to not get too far behind the others on the twenty minute approach that felt like five miles. I stopped at one point to take a break when I knew I was right at the line for overheating, with spots starting to dance around. I found shade, sat down, dumped some water on my head and neck, and slowed down my breathing. 

Once we were situated, I pounded down some trail mix. The hike back was much easier, but I still had my heart rate up and was breathing harder.

Yes, dehydrated, heat, stress, all that, but I'm really suspicious the altitude, paltry as it was, also got to me, especially that night.

No, I don't have asthma, don't smoke, reasonably fit, no idea what you mean by bonking, but boinking...uh different context. 

My assumption, as has been pointed out to me on here, is that I am nothing special, so if this has come up for me, it has for plenty of you too.

Best, OLH

Oh. Lol, add to the list difficulty in tracking a thought through to where ever it was supposed to go.

.

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 136
Old lady H wrote:

So, here's how this played out.

Yes, I've been somewhat beaten down for weeks, we've had a stupid hot summer and I had to fill in for someone on a job that meant being out in it and doing physical work. 10-11 additional shifts over about 6 weeks. Courier work, so I was driving and in and out of a hot vehicle, shifting loads in and out, to the tune of about 6,000 pounds each shift. In 100° heat.

Fighting through that, trying not to dehydrate or overheat, a mountaineer friend got me on to nuun tablets. Those have helped.

Finally done with the extra work, I took this overnight trip, which I really needed. Lots of small, but stressful crap for too long.

We arrived at midday, met our people, got organized and got some climbing in. Warm, so we stayed in the shade, and everyone was chugging water, myself included.

I didn't have the tablets, so yes, the electrolytes would be part of it, also generally worn out. I never quite had enough to eat, either.

Mild nausea most of the time (one of my responses to heat).

That night, I did not sleep at all. My heart rate was up, my respiration was up, not alarmingly so, but still, while I was laying there doing nothing. Never a real headache, but I was going that way (headaches are very rare for me).

Going out the next day was definitely a real slog. I didn't even try to climb, just tried to not get too far behind the others on the twenty minute approach that felt like five miles. I stopped at one point to take a break when I knew I was right at the line for overheating, with spots starting to dance around. I found shade, sat down, dumped some water on my head and neck, and slowed down my breathing. 

Once we were situated, I pounded down some trail mix. The hike back was much easier, but I still had my heart rate up and was breathing harder.

Yes, dehydrated, heat, stress, all that, but I'm really suspicious the altitude, paltry as it was, also got to me, especially that night.

No, I don't have asthma, don't smoke, reasonably fit, no idea what you mean by bonking, but boinking...uh different context. 

My assumption, as has been pointed out to me on here, is that I am nothing special, so if this has come up for me, it has for plenty of you too.

Best, OLH

Oh. Lol, add to the list difficulty in tracking a thought through to where ever it was supposed to go.

.

Sounds like a very mild version of AMS which would be reasonable given your lower altitude. My guess would be, given the low altitude, you wouldn't have experienced AMS if your body wasn't already suffering from electrolyte imbalance, exhaustion, heat stress. 

Sounds like you're realizing that, in order to climb or other strenuous exercise at altitude, you have to take much better care of your body than you would need otherwise. It's a hard lesson to learn and a real PITA. I struggled with it and continue to struggle with it. No wonder I tend to get altitude sickness at low altitudes

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 15

Yes, you should have Googled this, because you will get similar results as Mountain Project. The remedies will be the same, regardless of altitude. You aren't prohibited from reading it because it talks about 10,000 feet.

In all your years, you've never been to 6500 feet before? If you have, what did you do? How did you feel? Most people coming from near sea level will feel some shortness of breath at 6500 feet or higher.

I take Diamox, when I feel the need (going over 12,000 feet). It's a prescription drug. Some people are anti-medicine (side effects, "you're doping," etc.)

Not everyone has the luxury of an accimation schedule/procedure, as we may just have three or four days to do our trips.

Buff Johnson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2005 · Points: 545

What about lupus?

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 120
FrankPS wrote:

Yes, you should have Googled this, because you will get similar results as Mountain Project. The remedies will be the same, regardless of altitude. You aren't prohibited from reading it because it talks about 10,000 feet.

In all your years, you've never been to 6500 feet before? If you have, what did you do? How did you feel? Most people coming from near sea level will feel some shortness of breath at 6500 feet or higher.

I take Diamox, when I feel the need (going over 12,000 feet). It's a prescription drug. Some people are anti-medicine (side effects, "you're doping," etc.)

Not everyone has the luxury of an accimation schedule/procedure, as we may just have three or four days to do our trips.

Frank, I said in the OP I've never had issues before, and every fun place to go is around that altitude or higher, here. We were close to 7000 just the trip before this, six weeks earlier, and any time in all these years we've gone anywhere. Shit, you can't even drive anywhere without going over a pass. And, thats the rub, especially since I've lived at 2500 since 1980! That's why this caught me by surprise, and I thought it might help others too. I've never thought twice about these altitudes, and lots of other people probably haven't either.

And yes, Frank, I googled it. Sheesh. High altitude, I am familiar with what can happen, because a friend of ours died. About as severe as it gets, Frank, HAPE. Get down or get dead. He didn't, he died.

Thanks, though. I do hope to do a peak or two at some point. We "only" have 12ers here, but some 5000 foot prominence peaks. That, I think, would be worth the prescription.

And yes, all, I try to take good care of myself, but geez....doesn't always happen.

Best, H.

Jimmy Sledd · · Bozeman, Montana · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 5

Be careful of the advice you're getting on here. A parasite? Highly unlikely, and a "cleanse" would not do you any good if you did have one. No need to over-hydrate beforehand--Diamox, which works quite well, is actually a diuretic. Abstaining from alcohol for a few days is excellent advice though.

John Barritt · · OKC · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 888

I'm going with age, being tired, not enough water, a dip in bp or blood sugar or both. 

It's going to happen.... ;)

I ride with a bunch of guys my age (and older) some days you just feel crappy. See it pretty often with someone in the group with no elevation change. Not enough water, no breakfast, beers the night before. One or two things get a little out of whack and you're "sucking wind" JB 

Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 81

Sounds like you just need to take care of yourself a bit better! Altitude will almost always further exacerbate issues. 

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 0
John Barritt wrote:

I'm going with age, being tired, not enough water, a dip in bp or blood sugar or both. 

+1.

Your symptoms present as heat exhaustion / heat stroke and nothing to do with altitude.

mediocre · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 0

Sounds like dehydration more than AMS. Had you said that you were well hydrated I'd say hyponatremia, as the symptoms can be remarkably similar. 

City of Rocks is hotter than balls this time of year. 

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 136
Marc801 C wrote:

+1.

Your symptoms present as heat exhaustion / heat stroke and nothing to do with altitude.

Heat exhaustion wouldn't account for insomnia although it may or may not account for elevated respirations, both of which AMS would account for. And given that she was chugging water, hyponeutremia makes more sense than heat exhaust. 

But most likely it was a combination of things and only a medical professional would be able to tell you for sure what exactly was going on

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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