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The Air up there!!!

Posted Oct 20 2010 10:20am

Well I haven't wrote anything in awhile here but I have a reason for this lapse in time. I was on vacation in the Rocky Mountains and surprise I can relate this to something respiratory.

Now this is not my first time up in the mountains of Colorado because I was stationed in Colorado Springs in the early 90's but this is my first time in the mountains up there as a Respiratory Therapist. With my profession being in the respiratory department I did notice how much harder it was to breathe between 8,000 and over 10,000 feet above sea level and I couldn't help but try and remember the full explanation of why this is so I thought I would look it up and blog about it.

One experience that I really noticed besides my hikes to up over 10k was when my wife and I went to Leadville which is the highest incorporated city in the USA, topping out at 10,600 feet above sea level. My wife and I were walking around the downtown area and we were talking away and I noticed that I actually had to stop and take a couple deep breathes as I was getting quite winded just walking and talking this really kind of stunned me as I'm not in bad shape, even my wife who runs 6 miles at least 5 times a week was noticing this with herself it's really kind of amazing the difference here with your breathing. I do recall however that the Army gave new soldiers to Ft. Carson Colorado a month to acclimate before they really started making you run hard and on this trip I didn't have nearly that long so I never fully acclimated to this air.

Why is this? Well I found a good analogy to this effect, if you take a jar of air at sea level and compare it to a jar of air at 10,000 feet above sea level there will be less molecules of air in that jar at the higher sea level, this is due to basically less partial pressure of the oxygen and less barometric pressure which helps make the molecules more dense at lower levels so in actuality I was getting less molecules of oxygen in my lungs with a breathe at higher altitudes than I would get with the same size breathe at the lower sea level.

Makes sense to me.

Here is a nice article on asthma in higher altitudes on Livestrong.com . Yes it's worse up there, when I was stationed in Colorado I seem to remember more people coming down with "Asthma" it seemed like, not I wasn't a RT but I was a Medic so I did have some medical knowledge there.

Some diseases make going to a high altitude very dangerous. People who have sickle cell anemia shouldn't go to a high altitude. A high altitude is also dangerous for people who have severe lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or severe emphysema, and for people who have severe heart disease.

Well all in all my wife had a great time together in the mountains with no kids thanks to my mother in law, one other side note about higher altitudes, if you like have some alcoholic drinks they WILL affect you quicker ... I'm just saying!!!

Keep driving on RT's.


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