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How Do I Avoid Altitude Sickness When I Hike?

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You can sidestep altitude sickness. We'll show you how.
Q. I'm doing my first major hike soon. Is there any way to prevent altitude sickness?

A. Slow and steady is key. Climb too fast and your body can't adjust to the change in pressure that accompanies altitudes starting at 6,000 feet. "Because people in good shape often climb full steam ahead, they're actually more likely to suffer from altitude sickness than slower hikers," says Michael P. Zimring, MD, director of the Center for Wilderness and Travel Medicine at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. Further protect yourself from altitude-induced dizziness, headache, and nausea by staying hydrated and avoiding alcohol. Before your trip, you also might want to get an Rx for acetazolamide, a drug that helps your body acclimate to altitude by, among other things, increasing oxygenation of the blood cells, Dr. Zimring says.

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, May 2010.

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