Family-Friendly Tips for Adjusting to High-Altitude in mammoth Lakes

Jul 14, 2021

Mammoth Lakes is the perfect destination for a family vacation no matter what time of year you’re considering coming. When researching the Eastern Sierras many visitors are enamored with the idea of a family trip to the mountains but might forget the elevation levels that accompany them. The town of Mammoth Lakes is 7,900ft above sea level. Mammoth Mountain’s base is 9,000ft and the very top of the mountain is 11,053ft. Elevations that high mean that some people may experience side effects from high altitude when in the Eastern Sierras.

Acclimatize the Whole Family

Understanding what happens to our bodies in high altitude locations is the first step to planning a successful trip for your whole family. At higher elevations, the atmosphere is thinner and has less oxygen. These conditions can lead to muscle fatigue, headaches, and shortness of breath for even very fit individuals. Give your body a day to acclimatize to the higher altitude before venturing out to more strenuous activities.

Dr. Sarah Sindell, an M.D. at Mammoth Hospital, offers advice for parents on altitude adjustment and kids. “There is no evidence that children are more susceptible than adults to altitude sickness. Several studies have shown children get altitude related illness at the same rate as adults. Children, however, can have difficulty expressing how they are feeling, so pay attention to their behavior.”

Hydration is Key

People get dehydrated quicker at altitude so hydration is key in avoiding negative side effects from high elevation. Dr. Sindell adds, “The importance of staying hydrated cannot be overstated, however, drinking too much water can also cause medical issues, so use your judgement. The color of your urine can be used as a good guide of how hydrated you are- aim for clear and copious.”

Along with hydrating, many people find it helpful to eat lightly and avoid alcohol in the first 24 hours at elevation.

In Both Summer & Winter, Remember the Sun

A common error is forgetting that a thinner atmosphere means the risk of sunburn is present year round. Make sure to use and reapply sunscreen no matter which month you visit, including when skiing, snowboarding, or playing in the snow in the winter. Another tip for sunscreen application is not to forget applying it on your lips and under your nose and chin. In this article, writer Christie Obsorne explains that UV rays from the sun reflect off the snow and can lead to sunburns on your face in areas you may not expect.

UV rays can cause not only sunburn but also snowblindness. Wear sunglasses, especially when you are on the water in Mammoth and goggles or sunglasses when practicing winter sports. Layering is another great option for protecting from the sun. Getting overheated can lead to dehydration and dehydration can make people susceptible to altitude sickness. When it comes to the sun at high elevation, layer, stay hydrated, and wear sunscreen.

Know Your Family Member’s Capabilities

To have a successful trip at altitude, be aware of the general fitness level of all of the members of your family from young to old. Dr. Sindell explains, “Your aerobic exercise capabilities at altitude are generally less than what they are at sea level. This means slowing down and taking more breaks when cycling, hiking or skiing.”

For children, older family members, pregnant women, or anyone who is showing signs of fatigue, take breaks more frequently or as needed.

Even Pets Can Feel the Effects

Pets are not immune to the thinner atmosphere at higher elevations. Pay attention to their hydration levels, let them acclimatize before beginning strenuous activities, and include them in rest breaks as their bodies adjust to altitude.

If you follow these tips and pay attention to everyone in your group, your family will be set to enjoy the high altitude and all that Mammoth and the Eastern Sierra has to offer.

For more high altitude tips, read here for information provided by Mammoth Hospital.

Charlotte Kaufman

Charlotte Kaufman grew up in Alaska and started traveling internationally at the age of 16. A sailor since 2005, she and her family were part of a dramatic at-sea rescue in the spring of 2014 while en route to the South Pacific. She has just completed a memoir about the experience and is seeking to…

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