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Ask Buck

Can I Get Altitude Sickness Below 10,000 Feet?

After I return, I'm somewhat tired, short of breath and sickly feeling for days after. I'm in great shape. Any ideas?

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Question:

Is it possible to experience mild altitude sickness with backpacking trips below 10,000 feet? I experience gas pain during the trip, and after I return, I’m somewhat tired, short of breath and sickly feeling for days after. I’m in great shape. Any ideas?

Submitted by – Rene, Edmonton, AB

Answer:

Yes—in fact, a few highly susceptible people have become desperately ill from altitude at elevations below 8,000 feet.

Great physical fitness, unfortunately, is not preventative. The cure with everyone comes with descent.

Do you take the time to acclimatize? Do you spend a couple of days in the seven- to eight-grand range before going higher? If it turns out you’re highly susceptible, you might talk to your doc about acetazolamide, a drug that helps with acclimatization. —Buck