Get acclimated: how to adjust to the mile-high state

May 8, 2018

Rachel Librach

rlibrach@uccs.edu

Incoming out-of-state students have to make more than the adjustments of adapting to a new school, new friends and a new routine. In Colorado, they have to learn how to adjust to being high. Colorado Springs is elevated at 6,035 feet above sea level, which is over 700 feet higher than Denver, the mile-high city. If you aren’t used to high altitudes, you should know what to expect.

    Altitude sickness, also known as “mountain sickness,” occurs when you ascend to higher elevations than your body is normally used to and you must adjust to the atmosphere’s decreased oxygen levels. The International Society for Mountain Medicine considers elevations between 5,000 and 11,500 feet above sea level to be “High altitude,” where elevation starts to have effects on a person’s body. Some of the most common side effects include dizziness, headaches, muscle aches and nausea.

    These symptoms should only last a day or two until your body has time to fully adjust.

    According to WebMD, even the most fit Olympic athletes can experience altitude sickness, so until your body starts feeling better, try to avoid strenuous activity, and be sure to stay hydrated. Proper hydration is a cornerstone to acclimatizing to higher elevations.

    A famous saying in Colorado is, “If you don’t like the weather now, wait 20 minutes.” That’s because the weather here can be unpredictable, and it is not uncommon for the day to start off sunny and end in a blizzard. Being prepared for these unexpected weather shifts is key, otherwise you can be trapped all the way over at University Hall with nothing but jeans and a T-shirt in a freezing rain.

    The basic wardrobe to pack for your academic year spent in Colorado Springs should include a light jacket, sneakers, shorts, flip-flops, jeans, hiking boots and pants, along with  a swimsuit and warm clothing for camping during the summer months. T-shirts, rain boots, a rain jacket, a light fleece, vests, jeans and shorts should cover fall and spring.

    However, you can never be too prepared for Colorado winters. It is advised that you pack a heavy fleece jacket, sweaters, long-underwear, snow boots, a water-resistant coat, turtlenecks, hats, gloves, scarves, jeans and snow pants.

    If you commute to campus, it might be smart to always keep a heavy coat or vest in your car just in case the weather dips down into those cooler temperatures.

    Just remember that because we are at a higher altitude, it is important to not only stay hydrated, but to also protect your skin and apply sunscreen often and generously, especially during the summer months when the sun is most intense.  

    While you may be eager to begin hiking and exploring different aspects of Colorado, just remember that until you have fully acclimated to the higher altitude, some activities may affect you faster than they normally would at lower elevations.

    To stay up to date on weather alerts as well as road conditions, visit.cotrip.org.

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