Asthma Mom’s Rules for Hiking at High Altitude

All the photos on this post come from the gorgeous Mohawk Lake Trail in Breckenridge, Colorado. Seven miles round-trip, the trail gains 1,700 in elevation and reaches 11,800 feet at the top. Want to learn how we completed the hike with an asthma kid? Read on:

1. Pretreat & Pack the Bronchodilator
A couple of puffs on the quick-relief inhaler at the trailhead opens up my daughter’s airways from the very beginning.

2. Include a Peak Flow Meter
Even I cough at the higher elevations where the cold, dry air irritates my throat, so I can’t always tell whether my kid’s coughing comes from her lungs. The PFM helps me decide.

3. Water is Your Best Friend
Asthma + High Altitude = Double the Hydration Need

At this elevation, hikers can dehydrate sooner than they think, and that’s even sans asthma. CamelBaks are the easiest way for both my kids to have instant access to all the water they need. (Check Sierra Trading Post for the best prices.)

Continental Falls

4. Funnel Neck Fleece is Your Second-Best Friend
I hit on this trick by accident when I bought my daughter a quarter-zip fleece a size and a half too large. Because the fleece is baggy, it doesn’t form a snug fit around her neck, and she can stick her lower face into it when she needs to warm the air she breathes into her lungs.

See the snowy peaks in this photo? That’s what they looked like in July. So you can imagine the air temperature, I’m sure.

5. Allow Extra Time for the Hike
Taking an asthmatic on a trail like this will probably require more rest stops than you think. Because a breathing-challenged kid that looks like this at the beginning of the hike,

May look like this an hour or two later:

Building enough time into a hiking schedule to stop and breathe makes a huge difference, even for my 8 year-old non-asthmatic.