As you plan your trip with your children to Aspen Snowmass, be knowledgeable about altitude sickness. Sometimes children can feel “ill” when traveling to mountain destinations, because high-elevation towns such as Aspen have less oxygen than cities at sea level. Aspen sits close to 8,000 feet, one of the most elevated cities in the United States.
While many children are not affected by the altitude at all, some children notice the altitude and may experience symptoms including shortness of breath, headaches, increased thirst, diminished appetite, disturbed sleep and overall physical fatigue. Signs of this can be very subtle in an infant, with poor feeding, irritability and vomiting, often mimicking the flu.
Also, chat with the doctor if your baby is younger than 6 weeks of age. Babies this young are more susceptible to altitude sickness. However babies over 3 months will have the same tolerance for high altitudes as you do, provided that she has no special health concerns and is beyond 3 months of age.
Make sure your kids/infants follow these simple tips and they will very likely not even notice the difference.
1. DO NOT PUSH IT
Take it slow with the children. Try to not have them exert too much energy the first day. Give their bodies ample time to properly acclimate.
2. MAKE SURE YOUR CHILDREN/INFANT DRINK PLENTY OF WATER
Before and during your trip to Aspen, increase your children’s daily dose of water. Drinking plenty of water is the number one way to help your children adjust easily to our higher altitude. The low humidity in Colorado keeps the air dry, similar to the desert, so drinking twice as much water here as you would at home is necessary. Mix one-half water with one-half Gatorade for added electrolytes. Aspen has a great public water supply, and bottled water is available at several locations around town. Water is the number one way to help your body adjust to our high and dry air. You need to drink twice the amount of water here as you would at home.
For Infants nurse your baby frequently or offer her several additional ounces of formula or water daily while you remain at the higher altitude.
3. ENCOURAGE YOUR CHILDREN TO EAT FOODS HIGH IN POTASSIUM
Foods such as broccoli, bananas, avocado, cantaloupe, celery, greens, bran, chocolate, granola, dates, dried fruit, potatoes and tomatoes will help your children replenish electrolytes by balancing salt intake. Eating more carbohydrates can also help.
4. PACK FOR SUN
With less water vapor in the air at this altitude, the sky really is bluer in Colorado. However, there is 25 % less protection from the sun. Sunscreen is a MUST. Aspen receives over 300 days of sunshine each year (more than San Diego or Miami). Make sure to bring sunglasses, sunscreen, and lip balm for your children.
5. PACK AND DRESS IN LAYERS
Because the sun is especially powerful in Aspen, daytime temperatures can feel much warmer than actual temperature. Temperatures drop quickly after sundown, particularly in the Spring and Fall. It is best to layer clothing for your child, as well as yourself.
6. USE A HUMIDIFIER
Turn on a humidifier in your bedroom to alleviate dryness while you sleep.
7. MOVE BACK DOWN
Go back to a lower altitude, or, if the trip is short, just get through it, provided that the baby’s/child’s color is good and there is no breathing distress.
If any children have minor altitude sickness, observing the above protocols should work. However, in the days following your arrival, should the child develop flu-like symptoms, violent headaches, vomiting, vertigo or unconsciousness seek medical help immediately. If the child is hiking they develop these symptoms, descend to a lower elevation immediately, and call for help. Indicators such as these can point towards High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and may have serious complications if left untreated even for a short amount of time.
About 25 per cent of people get acute altitude sickness no matter what, and that applies to babies, too.
Visitors who book a spa treatment at the Remede Spa at The St. Regis Resort Aspen can utilize their oxygen lounge before or after their treatment. Need an O2 boost? Rescue Lounge in downtown Aspen provides oxygen for a small fee. Carl’s pharmacy on Main Street sells non-medical-grade oxygen boosters.