If you are an avid hunter and have a hunting trip planned in Alaska, there is one crucial thing you need to understand—acute mountain sickness. A bout of acute mountain sickness can put a huge damper on your hunting trophy quest. More importantly, acute mountain sickness can make carrying and shooting a rifle extremely dangerous to yourself and everyone within target distance. Here's what you need to know about acute mountain sickness and how you can avoid it during your hunting trip in Alaska.
What is acute mountain sickness and why does it happen in Alaska?
Most of Alaska is higher in altitude than what your body is likely accustomed to, particularly in areas where big game hunting takes place. The air pressure is lower at higher altitudes. The higher you go, the lower the air pressure will be. When the air pressure is lower than what you are used to, your body has a more difficult time getting enough oxygen to enter your circulatory system, which causes a lower oxygen amount reaching your vital organs and your brain.
When your body senses a reduction in oxygen to the brain and vital organs, your pulse and respiratory rate tries to compensate for the reduction in oxygen by speeding up and shifting the balance of salt in your blood. This, in turn, causes an increase in your blood's acidity. This bodily phenomenon due to altitude is called acute mountain sickness.
What are the symptoms and how will it affect hunting?
According to Anchorage Daily News, symptoms can range from mild to severe and, unfortunately, severe cases can be fatal. Mild symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, dull headache, poor appetite, nausea, and vomiting. Severe cases can lead to brain swelling which can become fatal if not treated promptly.
Of course, with these types of symptoms, it would be unsafe to carry a loaded firearm and extremely dangerous to attempt to fire one. Fortunately, reputable hunting guides in Alaska plan trips to slowly ascent altitudes to help prevent hunters from developing acute mountain sickness. When booking your trip, be sure to choose a hunting guide that schedules trips with acute mountain sickness in mind.
What can you do to prevent acute mountain sickness from ruining your trip?
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to prevent acute mountain sickness while on your hunting trip in Alaska. One thing that is important to understand is how the imbalance of salt in your blood can be worsened when you are even slightly dehydrated. The more blood volume your body has, the less of a risk there is that salt content in your blood will be severe as your body acclimates to the higher altitudes during your trip. Stay hydrated during the hunting excursion by purchasing a water camel bag to wear and drink from while you hike and hunt.
Another important thing to do as you prepare for your hunting trip is to get a complete physical evaluation done to determine whether or not you have any medical conditions that could make acute mountain sickness riskier for you, such as anemia or a heart or lung condition. If you have ever had water in your lungs, you should avoid altitudes and look for a hunting trip at low altitudes.
Before your trip, purchase oxygen canisters and learn to use them properly. To find the right one for your needs, shop at a store that caters to Alaskan trophy hunters or skiers. Alternatively, ask your hunting guide at companies like Outdoors International for advice on where to purchase oxygen canisters and to provide you with instructions on how to use them properly.