Whether you travel to areas of high altitude, go hiking for exercise, or fly on a plane, raise your hand if you have experienced a headache, fatigue or exhaustion, lightheadedness, loss of appetite, insomnia, shortness of breath, restless sleeping, or nausea.
If you are raising your hand, these side effects are often associated with altitude sickness.
What is Altitude Sickness?
Altitude sickness (AKA acute mountain sickness), as defined by The Cleveland Clinic is physical distress on the body from difficulty adjusting to an area of higher altitude, which has lower oxygen concentration. Most of the symptoms above are usually mild, but in rare cases, they can be more severe.
What Causes Altitude Sickness?
Air is “thinner” at higher altitudes. When you go to a higher elevation too fast, your body may not be able to get as much oxygen intake as it needs to regularly function. You may need to breathe faster, which can result in a headache and other symptoms that may be associated with altitude illness.
Altitude sickness symptoms occur when your body cannot get enough oxygen into the bloodstream from the air at high elevation. Altitude sickness might also be exacerbated by strenuous physical activity at higher altitudes for those who have just come from a lower altitude. There is no rhyme or reason for determining who will or won’t get it. It has nothing to do with gender, or fitness level. Altitude sickness can be dangerous, so it’s important to address it when it happens.
How Do you Measure the Level of Oxygen in Your Body?
The measurement of oxygen in your body is called your oxygen saturation level. It measures the level of oxygen in your red blood cells and is measured in one of two ways. The measurement is called PaO2 when using a blood gas device, and O2 sat (SpO2) when using a pulse ox. You may have heard the term pulse ox, short for pulse oximeter, in the news recently as a result of the pandemic. A pulse oximeter is available as a consumer home health detection device used by those who may want to easily check their levels without the current challenges of having to leave their homes to have blood drawn for the blood gas option.
A pulse oximeter measures the oxygen saturation level in your body without using needles or requiring a blood sample. The pulse oximeter clips onto the tip of a finger and uses a cold light source that shines a light through the tip, making it glow red for a few seconds. The device determines the percentage of oxygen in red blood cells by analyzing the light passing through the finger. Think of it as a home blood-pressure measurement cuff.
As always, please refer to your physician or a medical professional regarding the meaning of oxygen saturation levels in relation to your issues or concerns.
How Do you Treat Altitude Sickness?
There are many ways that you can address altitude sickness, but the most important thing to do is to contact a healthcare practitioner to make sure they agree with the remedies you wish to use to make sure they are best for you. The health care practitioner needs to ask you questions and address the symptoms and possibly examine you to best rule out any other conditions or issues.
If you are hiking, camping, or traveling to an area of high altitude, it’s important to know the symptoms of altitude sickness. Many may mistake the symptoms for other common issues like the flu and dehydration, or even a hangover. Consistent and healthy hydration should be a foundation of any health and wellness regimen and a baseline consideration before undertaking activities or environments which negatively impact hydration.
If you have ruled out everything else and identified that you are experiencing altitude sickness, there are a few things you may consider doing.
The Boulder Medical Center in Boulder, Colorado suggests that the most effective treatment is an altitude adjustment by traveling to a lower elevation. If your symptoms are mild, you may wish to consider staying at that elevation and allowing your body to adjust. We are not suggesting that, and it’s important that you consider what is best for you by consulting with your physician. Depending on the person, the adjustment process to a higher altitude could take a few hours, a day, or longer; each person is different.
If you remain at a higher altitude, make sure you get enough rest. Take it easy, and don’t over-exert yourself. Drink plenty of water, but do not drink alcohol. It’s best not to consider going to a higher altitude until your symptoms go away. This may take hours or, in some cases, days.
CBD and Altitude Sickness
Plenty of people are using CBD with exercise because they feel it has given them control over their health and wellness with natural plant-based products. As we always suggest, it’s essential that you speak with your healthcare practitioner first to make sure it’s agreed that CBD is right for you. Many people feel that using natural products helps them support and balance their lives and may, in some instances, reduce some side effects of pharmaceuticals or over-the-counter options and have less of an impact on the environment now and for future generations.
While there are plenty of over-the-counter and prescription medications, some have turned to CBD to address altitude sickness. It’s important to note that CBD does not treat or cure any medical issue or illness.
It’s important to reinforce that CBD is NOT cannabis (marijuana). CBD is a cousin to cannabis, but unlike its cousin, CBD is not psychoactive and has 0.3% or less THC, while cannabis has much more.
What is CBD?
CBD is an acronym for cannabidiol. CBD is one of the many compounds found in the cannabis plant. CBD interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for supporting the homeostasis of organs and systems throughout the body.
Unlike its close relative THC, CBD does not get you high, and it is legal. There are many scientific and clinical studies by many organizations into the potential therapeutic benefits that CBD may have, and many more to come.
CBD has gotten a lot of media attention in recent years, and there is a lot of anecdotal evidence from people that use CBD and the miraculous things it has done for them and their pets. There is a lot of scientific research that has been done, and we are eager to see more, but until then, we have to trust the research that exists and anecdotal evidence. With this information, note that each person and their experience is unique to them. It may work for some and not all. As our mothers” once said, “Just because it looks good on her, doesn’t mean it will look good on you.” CBD may have some potential benefits, but until the FDA regulates and approves it, we’ll have to rely on some of the clinical research and anecdotal evidence.
Does CBD Help with Altitude Sickness?
There is not much evidence on whether or not CBD can help with altitude sickness, but one of the reasons for altitude sickness is a lack of oxygen in the body.
A 2015 study has shown that CBD can help open the bronchial passages, and this could help those that need more oxygen. Therefore, someone experiencing altitude sickness may be able to avoid low blood oxygen levels.
This provides some promise that if CBD may help with improving the oxygenation of blood with CBD, perhaps it may help with altitude sickness. Much more research is needed on this topic.
Everyone’s body chemistry is very different. And because of that, many people doubt CBD’s effectiveness because different people get different benefits to varying degrees. Others purchase CBD from “bad actors” and get what they paid for.
CBD is a natural compound from a plant, and everything from your height, body weight, biochemistry, and quality/potency of the CBD product matters in the power of the potential results.
If you have not used CBD before, we would not suggest using it when going to a high altitude for the first time. You should try it at home, in your own environment, to make sure it’s right for you. Consider combining CBD with physical activity or an intense workout at your normal elevation (and at home) for a test drive.
If you are comfortable with it and feel that it may be a possible alternative, natural plant-based wellness solution to altitude sickness for you, then go for it.
Anecdotal evidence from real people suggests that CBD has been a holistic alternative for them to replace over-the-counter altitude sickness medications.
Like any new product you introduce into your daily regimen, we suggest you take it slow – it’s always wise to start out with a smaller amount and see how it goes and how you and your body reacts.
9 Things to Check Before You Purchase a CBD Product
- The product is from a reputable company
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- The product ingredients are clearly labeled for your reference
- The products are grown in the USA by the manufacturer
- The products are vegan, gluten-free, non GMO and cruelty-free
- The products have verified reviews from consumers for your reference
- The company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee
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