The Rocky Mountain High, or Altitude and Asthma

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I’m headed to the Rocky Mountains in July, and let me tell you–that trip sure takes the sting out of the 100+ degree heat index I’ll be facing for the rest of the month when I get back, and then all the way through August here in the humidity capital of the U.S.

Actually, the girls and I will be visiting Denver in particular, and while I’ve traveled or lived all over eastern North America, from Canada all the way down to coastal Mexico and even down into the Caribbean, I’ve never gone farther west than Texas.

I have to admit I’m a teeny bit nervous. Because of the asthma, of course.

My part of Florida is not completely flat like most people think. It’s not even close to the pancake landscape of central and south Florida, for example. But we do still sit at sea level, more or less. At its highest point, this area only reaches an elevation of 102 feet, so you couldn’t even use the word *hilly* to describe the geography.

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And Denver’s the Mile High City.

That’s 5280 feet. I did the math and came up with this:

5280 feet – 102 feet = 4178 feet

Four thousand feet is a lot of vertical space to clear. We’re talking a valley-to-peak type of travel situation here, and I don’t know how AG will cope with the thinner air. She may have no problems at all, especially since she breathes exceptionally well during the summer months and the mountain air and high elevation has to be better for ozone pollution levels than the soupy July air here. A mom I once knew, whose son suffered from the most severe asthma flares I can imagine, never had problems in Denver when she took him to National Jewish, which also gives me hope.

Although when we head to Rocky Mountain National Park I hear you can both hike and take a train to the top of the mountains, where there’s still snow. And my born-and-raised Florida girls have informed me there’s no way they’ll be happy about skipping the snow, not that I blame them. But if Denver itself sits a mile above sea level, I can only imagine what the altitude’s like at the top of the park, and that makes me really nervous.

What’s an Asthma Mom to do?

Here’s my plan so far:

1. AG has a pediatrician appointment before the trip, and we will plan obsessively with the doctor.

2. It does without saying, I think, that I’ll pack full inhalers.

3. I’ll also bring along a prescription for prednisone in case she flares badly, so I’ll hopefully only have to search for a Walgreens to fill it rather than an ER.

4. You may remember AG usually doesn’t need her steroid inhaler during the summer. I’ve decided to start those Flovent treatments back up a couple of weeks before we leave, though, so her lung inflammation stays down in case she doesn’t adapt easily.

5. I’m reading a ton of first-person accounts, all of which helped me come up with this theory about how AG will react: Who knows?

I so hope we have an incident-free trip for the usual reasons but also because it will be sort of a test run in case we end up actually moving to Denver, still a real possibility.

In light of this trip and my fears, anyone got more high-altitude suggestions for asthma? Happy stories of your own to reassure me? Tips? Help an Asthma Mom out.

519 responses to “The Rocky Mountain High, or Altitude and Asthma”

  1. Asthmagirl says:

    Although I find I have issues with altitude, they really don’t kick in until around 6000 feet. I hope the 5000 foot elevation is going to be okay for AG.

  2. Amy says:

    Really.

    Now that’s a helpful piece of information. I worry less about the altitude than the change in altitude since we’re so very low here. . . . I’m hoping the lower humidity and the fact that she generally does well in the summer balances everything out.

  3. wendy says:

    Oh, I think the snow will magically take the asthma away. No seriously, I remember spending the night in fresh, clean mountain air once while on a holiday. It was the best sleep I’d ever had. Don’t know why, but that mountain air was sooooo cool and fresh.
    No, I’m not an asmatic, so maybe it doesn’t count, but I did have asthma as a child. And I did “outgrow” it.
    Have a wonderful trip. And relax. It will be fun.

  4. AndieBeck says:

    I’ve been reading but not commenting much as I’m trying the NaComLeavMo marathon – my goodness that does take time. It’s more stressful than I realized!

    This post opened my eyes to yet another aspect of asthma that I hadn’t realized could affect life as it does.

    Certainly w/ food allergy, there’s a similar level of worry and preparation … bringing extra epi pens on the plane w/ a doctor’s note – travelling with our own food and then extra in case of delays, wipes to clean the seats, arranging for accomodation where we can cook our own meals, etc.

    I hope you have a wonderful time and find that AG has absolutely no problems!

  5. Amy says:

    Well, you know I don’t envy you those food allergies, Andie. I think you’d have to commit me somewhere if I had to face that on top of the asthma!

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