Did you ever wonder why Denver is called the “Mile High City?” The answer is very simple: Denver’s elevation sits at 5,280 feet, which is precisely one mile above sea level!
From the majestic Rocky Mountains to the craft beer, wonderful restaurants, and five-star art galleries, there are several reasons to plan a fantastic trip to the city. Still, one potential hiccup can derail your plans: Altitude sickness.
Chances are you’ve heard of altitude sickness or high-altitude illness. Still, because you’ve never experienced it yourself, you aren’t exactly sure what to expect when you visit Denver or if you will ever suffer from this prevalent condition.
Ready to plan a trip of a lifetime or make the big move to Denver – Follow this definitive guide to understanding and combating high-altitude illness, or HAI:
What Exactly Is Altitude Sickness?
When you transition from a lower altitude to a higher altitude too quickly, you can suffer from a grouping of symptoms called altitude sickness.
Higher altitudes have less oxygen, and if you do not allow your body time to adjust to the sparse oxygen levels properly, your body can struggle to adjust to your red blood cells receiving less oxygen.
Acute mountain sickness, or AMS, is the most common type of high-altitude illness and the one you will typically experience when you fly straight into Denver and don’t allow your body time to adjust by gradually acclimating to the altitude difference.
What is Considered “High Altitude?”
Although Denver sits 5,280 feet above sea level, it is not considered “high altitude.”
You must reach an altitude of 8,000 feet to reach an altitude, which is considered “high,” but don’t assume that just because you are visiting lower-altitude destinations doesn’t mean you won’t suffer from the symptoms of HAI.
Signs and Symptoms of High Altitude Illness
Symptoms of HAI can vary significantly from mild to severe and typically appear during the first day of exposure to higher altitudes.
Watch out for some of these most typical signs you are dealing with the acute form of high altitude sickness:
- Shortness of breath
- Trouble sleeping
You may experience changes in your vision, which occurs when oxygen molecules inside your retinas burst. Don’t worry; this is an infrequent symptom, but if you encounter trouble seeing or blurry vision, visit a doctor immediately.
10 Tips to Combat Altitude Sickness
You are moving to Denver and cannot wait to start your new life, but you are concerned about the thinner air and the real possibility of altitude sickness.
Luckily, there are several straightforward strategies you can follow to lessen the severity of your HAI, avoid it altogether, or combat the symptoms. At the same time, you adjust to the higher altitudes of cities with a height of 5,000 feet!
Slowly Adjust and Try to Stay Under 7,000 Feet Above Sea Level for the First Few Days
The best strategy is to acclimate slowly to the higher elevation found throughout portions of Denver, specifically towns and cities situated on the Rocky Mountains’ foothills.
Start your journey to Colorado by enjoying some of the sights and adventures in towns with lower elevations, including Holly, the biggest town in the state with the lowest elevation.
Gradually make your way to higher elevations throughout the course of several hours or several days, making sure not to ascend higher than 1,640 feet per day, especially when you reach “high elevation” towns above 8,000 feet, including Copper Mountain, Victor, and Alma, a small town with an elevation of 10,578 feet.
Check Out Fort Collins Before Heading to the Mile High City and Colorado Springs!
A slow ascent is the best way to prevent HAI, so instead of flying directly into Denver International Airport, or if you are moving to Colorado Springs, spend a few days in a city with a lower elevation.
While you make your way into higher-elevation towns, don’t forget to check out some fantastic sites in some of the hottest tourist destinations throughout Colorado, including Fort Collins, a mecca of hiking, skiing, and snowboarding in winter.
Take Your Exploring Pikes Peak and Other Sites at Extreme Elevations
Your goal is to ascend to the top of Pikes Peak and take in the impressive views.
Of course, with an impressive elevation of 14,115 feet, you leave yourself vulnerable to some of the more uncomfortable symptoms of high altitude sickness.
As with any attractions and cities at extreme elevations, taking your time ascending the mountains is critical.
Remember, Pikes Peak was discovered on July 15, 1806, and thousands of tourists visit yearly, meaning there is no need to race to the top.
Instead, hike slowly up the mountain, drive rather than take small passenger planes, and if you start to notice any signs of HAI, take a little time to rest and recover before you begin your journey again.
Introduce Complex Carbohydrates and High Potassium Foods Into Your Diet
Less oxygen means your body will work overtime to perform even the simplest tasks, from grabbing groceries to taking a short hike through Berkley Lake Park.
You will need more calories to fuel your body during your stay in Denver, especially if you plan on strenuous outdoor activities.
Adjust your caloric intake and introduce foods rich in potassium and complex carbohydrates, including:
- Certain vegetables, including butternut squash, potatoes, and corn
- Whole grains
- Dried fruits, such as apricots and raisins
Go ahead and indulge in your favorite high-calorie treats, from chocolate bars to baked goods, to ensure you have enough fuel to enjoy your time in Denver, which is, incidentally, one of many of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S.!
Drink Plenty of Water Throughout Your Stay
The negative impact of higher altitudes can be daunting, which is why many seasoned travelers prepare by taking anti-nausea meds or slowly acclimating to the elevations to prevent typical symptoms associated with altitude sickness.
However, there is another common issue that many overlook, and one that is only exacerbated by high-energy activities: dehydration.
Denver is known for its temperate climate, consistent sunshine, and low humidity, which means your body will lose moisture much more quickly than in everyday life.
The lower humidity combined with increased energy usage is a recipe for disaster and one of the many reasons why if you are moving from Tampa to Denver, you need to drink a lot of water for the first few days in the Mile High City.
As a general rule, expect to need at least twice the amount of water you would typically require to remain well-hydrated, but you might need even more if you are hiking, biking, or skiing.
Eventually, your body will become accustomed to the dry air and higher altitude.
Maintain an Active Lifestyle and Regular Exercise Routine, But Watch Your Levels of Physical Activity
Moving to Colorado is an easy decision, especially if you are an outdoor enthusiast who prefers hiking boots over heels and dress shoes!
Acclimating to the altitude difference takes time, and a lack of oxygen in the air can cause you to feel winded performing the simplest activities.
Don’t take this as a time to rest; instead, get out and enjoy some moderate exercise to help you become accustomed to your new lifestyle and higher elevations!
Avoid Strenuous Exercise Until You Are Acclimated
Before you sign up for the Denver Colfax Marathon, realize that your body requires several days to become accustomed to the thinner air in Denver.
Instead of running, try walking, or if you prefer hiking, stick to the shorter hills with a gentle slope. You will be ready for ski season after a few days or weeks of slowly becoming more active!
Make Sure You Get Enough Sleep
You are drinking more water, enjoying your favorite high-carb snacks, and taking it easy on your daily hikes, you should be just fine, right?
If you are doing everything “right” but still suffer from the adverse effects of extreme altitudes, the culprit might be your sleep habits.
Sleep is always important, but ensuring restful sleep is even more crucial as you become accustomed to the unique Denver atmosphere. Go ahead and tuck yourself in a few hours early; your body will thank you!
Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine and Drink Water and Sports Drinks to Replenish Electrolytes
Drinking alcohol and caffeine, along with taking certain prescription medications, namely sedatives, can increase your chances of suffering from high-altitude illness.
Instead, put your coffee down or schedule a craft brewery tour for when you are more accustomed to the high elevation, and pick up a bottle of Gatorade.
Balancing salt intake or moderately increasing salt intake, both of which can be accomplished gradually by adding an oral rehydration drink into your diet, can help combat nausea, headaches, and dizziness.
Treat Specific Symptoms With Over the Counter Medications and Mom’s Home Remedies
Talk to your doctor about different ways to treat the specific symptoms associated with HAI. For example, headaches are the most common symptom and can be alleviated with an OTC pain reliever. Treat your nausea with a glass of room-temperature ginger ale or a few soda crackers.
From Skiing to Mountain Climbing: Planning the Perfect Trip to the Centennial State
Whether you are visiting Denver for a whirlwind weekend, spending a week seeing the sites in Colorado Springs or moving to Estes Park, CO, from Salt Lake City, New Mexico, Boston, Fort Lauderdale, or Madison, there are several ways you can plan the ideal trip to Colorado, including:
- Book very early: Heading to Colorado for the holidays – Book at least three to four months in advance to get the best price available on rental properties and ski lift tickets.
- Avoid the peak skiing season: Steer clear of the big resorts from November through early January and book a vacation for late winter to avoid the congestion instead.
- Check out our notable small towns: From Crested Butte to Trinidad and Woodland Park, smaller towns tend to get overlooked, which is a shame because they are hidden gems!
The Mountains Are Beautiful Throughout the Year: Enjoying Colorado During All Four Seasons!
Selecting the best time of year to visit Colorado is easy- it’s any time of the year.
Millions flock to the state during winter because of the many outdoor activities, but you are missing out on everything this impressive state offers during spring, summer, and fall.
You know what else is easy? Selecting the best long-distance movers in Denver!
Considering Calling Colorado Home? The Ins and Outs of Living in the Centennial State
Considering Denver, but don’t know enough about the area to make an educated decision?
Here are a few of the ins and outs of calling this fantastic area home:
Low Property Taxes
The property tax rates are some of the lowest in the country, but be aware that although you are paying a lower rate, you might still have a high tax bill. This is because Colorado has some of the highest property prices in the country.
Colorado Is a Swing State
What is a swing state? Colorado is considered a “swing state” because an almost equal number of residents belong to the two major parties: Republicans and Democrats.
Be prepared to become inundated with political ads during elections and for many people to knock on your door ready to tell you about their candidate’s platform.
Higher Median Household Income and Higher Living Expenses
There are several job opportunities and a higher-than-average median household income.
However, be aware that Denver has much higher than average living costs and exceptionally high housing costs compared to other urban areas.
Our Customers Also Ask
How long does it take to adjust to living in higher altitudes?
You can generally expect it to take roughly one to three days to become accustomed to the stark difference in elevations. It is expected to suffer side effects during this time, but these should subside quickly.
How do you adjust to living in high altitudes?
Drinking plenty of water, drink lots of sports drinks, invest in lip balm, try to acclimate slowly to higher elevations by driving to your destination rather than flying, and, of course, if you are still suffering from the adverse effects of Denver’s elevation, visit your doctor immediately to rule out another underlying issue.