High, higher, the highest – Do you know the signs and symptoms of Altitude Sickness?

Winter season means playing in the snow and challenging body and mind. Especially the body when it comes to high elevations and therefore also some changes in the metabolism.  To keep it fun, but also safe, remember a few things next time you are in the mountains:

 

What is Altitude Sickness, also known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)? What are the causes?

High altitude can have some pathological effects on humans which is caused by an acute exposure to low partial pressure of oxygen in those elevations.
Usually it occurs above 2,400 meters (8,000 feet), whereas physical reactions can be different in each person. However, most people can ascend to 2,400 meters without difficulty.
The available amount of oxygen in the high mountains is so much less though. The ability to sustain mental and physical alertness decreases constantly with altitude.
How this shortage of oxygen actually leads to altitude sickness is still not fully understood
But a few factors may contribute to an onset and severity of AMC. Such as dehydration due the increased rate of water vapor lost from the lungs, as well as the rate of ascent, altitude attained, amount of physical activity at high altitude, and individual susceptibility.

Somewhere in Canada

 

Signs and symptoms

People show different reactions towards high altitudes. For some otherwise healthy people, first symptoms can begin to appear at around 2000 meters (6,5000 feet) above sea level, such as at many mountain ski resorts.
It presents as a collection of non-specific symptoms which can be flu like or feel similar to a really bad hangover.
Symptoms often manifest themselves six to ten hours after ascent and generally subside in one to two days, but they occasionally develop into the more serious conditions. Exertion aggravates the symptoms.

 

Primary symptoms

Headaches are the primary symptom used to diagnose altitude sickness, although a headache is also a symptom of dehydration. A headache occurring at an altitude above 2,400 meters (8,000 feet), combined with any one or more of the following symptoms, may indicate that you suffer from altitude sickness:

* Lack of appetite, nausea, or vomiting
* Fatigue or weakness
* Dizziness or light-headedness
* Insomnia
* Pins and needles
* Shortness of breath upon exertion
* Nosebleed
* Persistent rapid pulse
* Drowsiness
* Excessive flatulation
* General malaise
* Peripheral edema (swelling of hands, feet, and face)

 

Severe symptoms

Symptoms that may indicate life-threatening altitude sickness include:

* Pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs)
* Symptoms similar to bronchitis
* Persistent dry cough
* Fever
* Shortness of breath even when resting

* Cerebral edema (swelling of the brain)
* Headache that does not respond to analgesics
* Unsteady gait
* Gradual loss of consciousness
* Increased nausea
* Retinal hemorrhage

The most serious symptoms of altitude sickness arise from edema (fluid accumulation in the tissues of the body). At very high altitude, humans can get either high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), or high altitude cerebral edema (HACE).

HAPE can progress rapidly and is often fatal. HACE is a life-threatening condition that can lead to coma or death. Both require immediate treatment by professionally trained persons.

 

First aid/ Treatment

The only reliable treatment and in many cases the only option available is to descend. Attempts to treat or stabilize the person where he or she might be, are dangerous at high altitude, unless highly controlled and with good medical facilities.
So it is better to prevent acute mountain sickness than to try to treat it.
Following the golden rules should mean that your body can acclimatize as you ascend, which also includes ascending slowly and so you will be less likely to develop acute mountain sickness.
However, if you need to go up more quickly, you could consider taking a drug called Acetazolamide (also known as Diamox). Acetazolamide reduces symptoms of acute mountain sickness in trekkers, although it does have some unusual side-effects: it makes your hands and feet tingle, and it makes fizzy drinks taste funny.
Painkillers may ease the headache, but they don’t treat the condition. Acetazolamide may be helpful, especially if you need to stay at the same altitude, and resting for a day or two might give your body time to recover. It is essential that you should NEVER go up higher if you have acute mountain sickness.

 

Prevention

Go up slowly, take it easy, and give your body time to get used to the altitude. The body has a great ability to acclimatize to altitude, but therefore it needs time.
For instance, it takes about a week to adapt to an altitude of 5000 meters (16,404 feet).
Optimise your hydration and try to maintain a constant fluid intake. Stay hydrated!

 

Definitions and some extra knowledge in purely medical terms

High altitude 1,500 to 3,500 metres (4,900 to 11,500 ft): The onset of physiological effects of diminished inspiratory oxygen pressure (PiO2) includes decreased exercise performance and increased ventilation (lower arterial PCO2).  Because of the large number of people who ascend rapidly to altitudes between 2,400 and 4,000 m, high-altitude illness is common in this range.[8]

Very high altitude 3,500 to 5,500 metres (11,500 to 18,000 ft): Maximum Saturation falls below 90% as the arterial PO2 falls below 60mmHg. Extreme hypoxemia may occur during exercise, during sleep, and in the presence of high altitude pulmonary edema or other acute lung conditions. Severe altitude illness occurs most commonly in this range.

Extreme altitude above 5,500 metres (18,000 ft): Marked hypoxemia, hypocapnia, and alkalosis are characteristic of extreme altitudes. Progressive deterioration of physiologic function eventually outstrips acclimatization. As a result, no permanent human habitation occurs above 6,000 m. A period of acclimatization is necessary when ascending to extreme altitude; abrupt ascent without supplemental oxygen for other than brief exposures invites severe altitude sickness.

 

Have you suffered from Acute Mountain Sickness before? Or felt otherwise unwell while being in high altitude?
Please feel free you share your story and experiences and write a comment!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How can you sucessfully prevent catching a cold at this time of the year?

Seasonal changesIt`s again this time of the year when it looks extraordinarily  beautiful outside, but you never know what to wear and if the weather will be stable throughout the day…Possibly it won`t and it`s also more likely that you will feel cold regretting the cloth choices you`ve made earlier that day.

If you have to commute  daily, eventually you get as much annoyed by people randomly sneezing and coughing sometimes straight into your face then I do.

Preventing is better than curing. Since I`m a bit bacteriophobe, I thought about a few things which can help us staying healthy during these tricky wet and cold months.

 

Start your day with a vitamine boost

There are many different opinions and thoughts about drinking warm lemon water in the morning. I believe that I`m benefiting from my modified version a lot:

  • Add to a cup of warm water 1 teaspoon of apple vinegar, 1 teaspoon of honey, 1 teaspoon of wheatgrass, 1/2 teaspoon of spirolina and some fresh lemon juice
  • stir it well and
  • drink it as the first thing in the morning…you will feel extremely vital

 

Eat fresh and seasonal and on a regular base

Seasonal vegetables provide your immune system with all the necessary minerals and vitamines. Throughout the day, five portions of vegetables and/or fruits are recommended by the German Society of Nutrition and also internationally known organisations like the WHO.

Ideally, you have three major meals and additional snacks in between those meals.

An other great benefit of focusing on seasonal food is the support of local farmers.

Seasonal changes File0436

 

Stay hydrated

This is actually something we should be in every season, but now it`s especially important to “flush” the system and get rid of unwanted waste products.

A nice cup of tea is also something very comforting for the soul and helps you to keep yourself warm.

 

Wash your hands

This sounds a bit odd, but I truly mean it. It might not be indicated to have a small hand disinfectant with you all the time, whereas studies have  proven that washing your hands frequently helps to reduce spreading diseases like a colds and flu.

Due to the rougher weather, it is essential to get yourself a decent hand lotion  to protect the sensitve and thin skin of your hands.

 

Relax

Give your body the rest it needs. Which means going to bed early enough and trying to get as much sleep as you require. That can be anything from 5-8 hours each night.

If you do shift work, try to minimise the eventualities that you get disturbed: Switch of the phone etc.

 

Relax even more

It`s not only great fun to visit a sauna, but also a good training for the immune system. Each time you go, it will be stronger.

The feeling of being detoxified through all the sweating is also great!

 

I truly hope that I could give you some tips and tricks how to prevent getting sick!

Let me know how you are and if you have other “remedies”.

 

Seasonal changes Seasonal chnages

 

 

Buen Camino my friend

 

Even though I travelled a lot and  far at any given time in my life, this journey was the most spiritual healing one ever.

Finally, I could ease my mind and find inner peace along this inward and outward experience.

Here are some photos I would like to share with you:

 

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A beautiful sunrise on the first day in the Pyrenees.

 

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Before the rain…                                      ….And afterwards…Still in good spirits though.

 

 

Some guidance and protection from above.

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P1100428  The boarder to Spain.

 

P1100426 Still a long way to go to Santiage de Compostella…

 

P1100451   P1100456   Some signs along the way.

 

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I loved and enjoyed the sun rises the most…Everything was so quiet at that time of the day. The wide open space was inspiring and unleashed thoughts and oppertunties of letting go…Wonderfull!!! I practiced walking meditation for a couple of hours each day.

 

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In fact, there are pilgrims who travel with donkies. Not a bad idea.

 

 

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P1100672   P1100666  P1100669  In the middle of litarally nowhere we found this oasis to recover…With a pool…Sometimes wishes do come true!

 

 

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From June to July there was a heat wave over Spain which hit us with its full impact.

 

 

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Celebrations with one of my dearest Camino friends in SANTIAGO!!!

 

11722518_10152876966416924_6081752716319145183_o Made it to the “End of the World”, and also left a stone as a symbole of what I wanted to let go off at the last mark. It felt so unbelievable good!!

 

11731684_10152876966501924_5681039533249507935_o …And watched the sunset from here…Stunning yet so difficult to realise that this was also the end of the Camino with all what comes and goes with it.

 

“May you find everything you need for your growth along the way”. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

… Heat Stroke

Summer season is outdoor season. The activity opportunities are endless, either local or abroad. We like to be active and with a rising curiosity we explore more.

With great weather and rising temperatures also increases the wish to be outdoors and active.

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Unfortunately, we often underestimate the power of the sun and that it can be quite dangerous to be exposed too much for too long. The ultraviolet rays can irritate the brain and its meninges which can lead to typical symptoms which require fast treatment to prevent further damage.

 

Here are a few tips how you can identify a heat stroke and what you can do:

The first symptoms usually are: A very red face, head ache, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.

Eventually, the affected person might loose consciousness.

The affected person needs to rest in the shade immediately; ideally with the upper part of the body elevated by 30 degrees. The head needs to be cooled with wet rags, instant cooling packs or ice cubes.

The ice cubes can be placed into a plastic bag, so the skin does not get damaged, whereas it is recommended not to apply the ice bag directly on the skin; if possible put an extra rag or such around the ice bag or in between material and skin.

In case the affected person is unconscious, position him or her in recovery position and call the paramedics. While waiting for them to arrive, monitor vital signs like breathing and heart rate.

 

Have you had a heat stroke before? Or do you know someone who did? Share your thoughts and story!

 

 

 

Departure – Or hike another day

Time flies and tomorrow will already be the day of departure into my next adventure! I`m so excited! Sometimes I think that my life is a never-ending-bucket-list. And I feel blessed to have all these opportunities to make my dreams come true. And dreams do come true more often than you might think.

I`m looking forward to remove myself from the conveniences of everyday life for the next month and experiencing some solitude and being surrounded by nature. No commitments, no engagements, no obligations, and no duties!

Just time to search for some answers. One of my new years resolutions is/was “To find a place I can call my home”, where ever that might be. From tomorrow on, I will have 800km time to think about that.

During that time you might not read a lot of posts from me, but I will try to upload some photos from along the journey!

 

You`ll hear from me soon!Pre-Departure Day

 

 

Preparations Part 4 – How to choose the right travel insurance

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While travelling, no one really wants to think about”What if..?”. We want to explore and have fun. Thoughts about getting sick, injured or possible consequences when you are in such a situation seem miles away; like a complete waste of time and energy. Luckily, most times nothing ever happens, so that we sometimes question if getting one was really necessary or just a waste of way too much money, because we didn`t need it at the end.  But what if something does happen?

My advice is to make sure that your planning also includes thinking about a proper travel insurance.

From my own personal experience, I can tell you that I was totally relieved that my one payed straight away for the treatment in an Australian hospital, where I had to stay on a ward for almost five days. I felt so sick and wouldn`t have had the strength to deal with paper work. Plus: My budget would have been instantly not enough to travel for as long as I wanted to. When I was sick in Canada, they also re-payed for the visit at a walk-in-clinic and the medication I needed. Everything without any trouble or problems.

Sadly, I also know stories, and one in particular, where someone was supposed to have the time of his life when he needed immediate treatment in intensive care while in Mexico. It was a disaster, because the insurance refused to pay and the his family faced bankruptcy to keep him alive.

I don`t want to scare you! All I want is that you are aware of a few things, so in case anything happens, you know that you are well covered!

 

What a travel insurance should include to make your life easier when you don`t need any further  trouble:

Stay away from online stuff! Yes, they appear to be cheaper. In case you are on a low budget and would like to save some money here, I can`t stop you from doing so, BUT make sure that where ever you buy it from, read through the terms and conditions properly! Mostly you do need to be a resident of the country where the company is located! (That is what happened to the poor guy I mentioned above!). In case you suffer from a chronic disease and most likely you know in advance that you will need to see the local doctor during your adventure, please double check if treatments due to chronic diseases are covered by your insurance! Some of the ones you can buy at the bank (mainly in Canada, but lately also some German branches offer travel insurances) won`t pay. Those also don`t pay for alcohol induced accidents, by the way.

Ideally a good travel insurance includes all of the three following aspects:

1) All treatments as an outpatient and inpatient are included, as well as medication and painful dental treament

2) Repatriations coasts are included; mostly all the way from where you are to the closest hospital to your hometown

3) In case of death transport coasts will be payed for

 

Additional it`s super handy if the insurance company provides a 24/7 hotline where most of your questions can be answered straight away. Personally, I sometimes change plans and a lot of my trips turned out to be much longer than I had originally thought. In that case it`s super awesome if you can extend the existing insurance while you are travelling. Therefor, it`s important to know how long they are valid for and how much longer you can extent them. And that absolutely varies! Mine can be booked for one month up to 60 month in a row, for a fixed monthly price; others charge on a daily base. Just have a look around, sometimes it`s better to compare a bit, before you find something suitable for your needs.

An other helpful aspect is, if you know if your insurance includes sports. For example: Are you covered when you go skiing and such? And super important: Does it include working overseas like Work & Travel?

There are some extras, too. For example, my insurance also refunds in case I would be physically disabled after an accident abroad and cover some of the pension in case if I would remain unable to work. It also includes up to a certain amount a third party liability insurance. Unfortunately, it doesn`t include a car insurance.

 

As you can see, there are huge differences. Like I said before, take your time until you find the best option for yourself! If you feel like you need some assistance or if you have some questions, please send me a message!

 

“To travel is to live.”  (H. Anders)

 

Have a great, healthy, and safe journey!!

 

 

 

 

Preparations Part 3 – Nutrition – Dayhike food

There are quite frequently so called “Auberges” all along the Camino de Santiago, where you can stay for the night, but some also offer the “Pilgrim Menue” which mostly consists of three simple yet nutritious courses for little money. As far as I looked through the map, there are also every now and than grocery stores or smaller towns along the way, where I could refill what I would eventually need.

That means, I`m lucky, because I don`t really have to think about what and where to buy for more than a day, as well as how to prepare my food, transport it, and all those questions…And of course, I don`t have to carry much extra load what I really do appreciate.

Nonetheless, most days I will hike up to 30km. So technically it`s a day hike. Those adventures require simple and tasty snacks while having some rest.

 

What exactly am I looking for in particular here?

I am looking for food that packs well, tastes good, and refuels my energy levels without squishing while hiking and which is also quickly metabolized…preferably carbohydrates.

During the years when I lived in Canada, I tried a few things, and came to the conclusion that these work best for me as a vegetarian:

– dried fruit or trail mix

– fresh fruit like apples which also contain water

– breads and crackers with cheese

– energy bars, whereas it takes sometimes a while to find tasty ones; Clif Bar flavours are ok and available in most countries

– plenty of water, especially if it`s a hot day and also if  I munch some dried fruits (digesting them needs a lot of water)

Modified Trail MIx

I will try to take enough hiking food with me, and also try to keep it as healthy as possible. After all, I`m out there to enjoy nature and do good things for my body, mind, and soul!

 

Enjoy your snack!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preparations Part 1 – Choose your equipment wisely – Camino de Santiago

There are many good reasons for choosing this pilgrim adventure. It is a personal journey; may it be out of sportive motivation or spiritual searching. Either way, the long distance hike of approximately 800km from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port (France) to Santiago de Compostela (Spain) requires some planning regarding the equipment, even though it is supposed to be one of Europe`s best known routes with a good infrastructure.

I decided to hike the path out of personal reasons…There is a lot of inner work to do which also means a lot of decision making. In my case, the most important question to think about will be where to go next and settle for more than two years…Well, anyway…I should pack as light as possible…But what does that mean?

Ideally, clothes should be comfortable, multifunctional, and fast drying. How much socks, nickers, T-shirts to pack is a good question, just  need to be aware that every Gram counts. My backpack accompanied me on many shorter and longer trips and fits well. A good backpack gives some stability around the hips and helps therefore to shift the weight of the luggage . My joints will be always thankful for a well fitting backpack!

What I should pack

– Sleeping bag, eventually also a sleep mat, and a pillow

– Rain clothes and rain cover for the backpack

– USED tracking or hiking shoes and Flip-Flops for the time in between walking

– Hat and sunglasses and sun protection

– Towel and personal hygiene stuff like shampoo etc. also toilette paper and laundry soap

– Knife and sewing kit

– Torch/ Headtorch and extra batteries

– Water bottles, water bottles, and water bottles

– First aid bag including insect repellents, personal medication, plasters, dressings, blister treatment (Read more about prevention and treatment of those in “Preparations Part 2”), antiseptic, painkillers like Paracetamol or Ibuprofen, antihistamine, bandage, and an anti-inflammatory ointment against itchiness from insect bites or sunburns

– Documents like passport or European Identification Card, pilgrim card, travel insurance, vaccination certificates

– Camera, eventually mobile phone, and relevant charger

Is there anything you would add?

Have you hiked the route before? What was your motivation and what was your travel essential?

I would love to hear your thoughts!