The body responds in several ways to an increase in altitude:
- Kidneys flush more fluids out of the body. This diuretic effect helps the blood to thicken slightly and carry more red blood cells, which carry more oxygen. Everybody urinates more at higher elevations.
- Breathing accelerates. Your lungs are trying to catch up!
- Heart rate increases. The heart is working harder to pump oxygen-carrying blood to the rest of the body.
Everyone who suddenly comes from a low elevation to high altitude will experience these physiological changes. However, if you ascend in elevation too quickly, the body can get overloaded, and you’ll feel very sick. Altitude sickness feels like a bad case of the flu without the sore throat or cough. If you are not sure what is making you feel bad it’s most likely altitude sickness.
Extreme cases of altitude sickness can cause fluid buildup in either the brain as High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) —or in the lungs as: High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE). HACE and HAPE are very dangerous conditions, and can be