Why Do You Need To Drink A Lot Of Water At A High Altitude?

Most lowlanders develop physiological and biological changes in their body on climbing high altitude. The effects of these changes lead to diseases and disorders that are found at high altitude. Altitude above 5000 feet to 11000 feet is defined as high altitude. Altitude above 11500 to 18000 feet is considered to be extremely high altitude.

The effect and changes in your body increases higher you climb. Many of us are not accustomed to the atmosphere at high elevation. One of the most important things is to drink lot of water as there is greater risk of dehydration.

Importance Of Drinking More Water At High Altitude

There are several factors for which you may need to drink more water at higher altitude.

  • The humidity at high altitude is very low. As a result you may not be able to know how much moisture has evaporated from your skin. Besides exertion at high altitude may cause more sweating. But you may not know how much you have perspired.
  • You may lose moisture from your body as a result of rapid and deep breathing. Reduced oxygen level at high altitude makes you breathe more and at faster rate.
    This causes increase in loss of water from your body. In order to replenish the loss, you have to consume more water.
  • At high altitude there is increased urge to urinate. This may lead to excess loss of water from the body.
  • At elevated altitude many people feel less thirsty.

All the above factors may lead to greater risk of dehydration. Aside from this, dehydration can worsen altitude sickness which is also common complaint among many climbers and trekkers. The symptoms of altitude sickness such as headache, nausea, and tiredness can worsen when you are dehydrated. In such cases drinking water may help, but the condition can alleviate only when you move down to a low altitude.

Drinking more water is especially important at high altitudes in following circumstances:

  • If you are not familiar with the environment of high altitude.
  • If the weather is hot in this area.
  • Involved in strenuous activities such as cycling, skiing, mountain climbing, etc.
  • Make it a point to keep a water bottle near your table when you are busy in some activities, as it will be handy for you to drink water.
  • Carry a water bottle with you wherever you travel so that you can drink water frequently.
  • Avoid tea, coffee, soda, alcohol, aerated drinks at high altitude. These fluids increase urination. For hydration water is the best fluid at high altitude.

How Much Water To Drink A Day At High Altitude?

When you are unaccustomed to stay at high altitude, increase the intake of water by 1 to 1.5 liters of the normal intake. You may need to drink 3 to 4 liters of water in a day when you stay at high altitude. If you are at very high altitude, you may need to increase the intake of carbohydrate also.

While it is essential to drink more water at high altitude than when you are at sea level, drinking too much may also be harmful. It may dilute the electrolyte balance, especially sodium level in the body leading to symptoms such as confusion, fatigue, dizziness etc. The best way to find whether you are well hydrated is to check your urine color and output. If your urine is dark yellow and you urinate less, than you are likely to be dehydrated. In such situation you may have to drink more water.

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