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How To Avoid Altitude Sickness In Denver

You probably won't notice it, until you try to climb a flight of stairs — just a few steps, and you feel winded. Welcome to life at 5,280 feet above sea level.

Aside from being reminded that you're getting older, there are few side effects for most people who have a healthy heart and lungs. The plane ride out to Denver actually helped your body adjust some.

"Those airplanes are pressurized to about 6,000 to 7,000 feet," says Dr. Benjamin Honigman from the Altitude Research Center in Aurora, Colo.

He warns against going directly from Denver International Airport up into the mountains, though. When you start getting above 8,000 feet, the air can have up to a third less oxygen than at sea level. Under those circumstances, about one in four people will experience acute mountain sickness.

"That is characterized by headache, sleeplessness, some nausea or loss of appetite," says Honigman, "but that goes away after a day or two."

You may have heard that at higher elevations you don't have to drink as much alcohol to get drunk.

"That's an urban myth," says Honigman "Alcohol, itself, is not metabolized any differently."

But alcohol can dehydrate you, and Denver has a dry climate.

To compensate for the climate, Honigman says most people should drink 24 to 36 ounces more water than normal.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jeff Brady is a National Desk Correspondent based in Philadelphia, where he covers energy issues and climate change. Brady helped establish NPR's environment and energy collaborative which brings together NPR and Member station reporters from across the country to cover the big stories involving the natural world.