Travel to high altitude with COPD: Need to take precautions?

Posted by sistertwo @sistertwo, Sep 23 11:05am

We are planning a road trip to CO to see our daughter (who is isolated and Covid free) and I am wondering what people do when a person has COPD when going to a higher elevation (7240 ft). We have been there several times before, but not since he had an ablation on his heart a couple years ago. His heart is good now, but his oxygen level is typically around 91-92. Thank you.

@sistertwo– Good morning and welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. What a great question. My problem is lung cancer and loss of lung tissue and COPD. A few years back I visited my son in Portland, OR and we drove up to Mt Hood. My O2 levels were ok but boy did I feel the altitude! I felt ill and my legs could barely climb the stairs. I did however acclimate and was able to walk around and look up at the top.

My suggestion is to talk with his Pulmonologist and see if additional O2 might help or be recommended. 91-92 is on the low side but still considered good. Are you flying or driving?
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323292#preparing-for-high-altitude

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When I traveled to south america I too had a shortness of breath carrying my bags up 2 floors in hotel. I also noticed it when we were sightseeing and had to climb multiple flights of stairs in some churches or lookouts. So I did 3 things there was a leaf that I chewed on the locals swear by it but I'm dont remember what it was 2 you can buy bottled oxygen which I did and the most important and let me say this the most important was to listen to my body when I felt winded or starting to get shortness of breath I sat down and relaxed. my situation is a little different we went from minnesota altitude to 10000 feet over a month so I was able to acclimate myself but I still felt the effects. The people we meet FROM CA went from sea level to 8000 had a hard time also good luck relax and enjoy yourself and give your daughter plenty of hugs dave

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@merpreb

@sistertwo– Good morning and welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. What a great question. My problem is lung cancer and loss of lung tissue and COPD. A few years back I visited my son in Portland, OR and we drove up to Mt Hood. My O2 levels were ok but boy did I feel the altitude! I felt ill and my legs could barely climb the stairs. I did however acclimate and was able to walk around and look up at the top.

My suggestion is to talk with his Pulmonologist and see if additional O2 might help or be recommended. 91-92 is on the low side but still considered good. Are you flying or driving?
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323292#preparing-for-high-altitude

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Something else I should of mentioned in a post I just did was a finger o2 sensor the people from CA tried it when they were short of breath and o2 levels were in the dangerous levels that's when we used the bottled oxygen to get more o2 in their system good luck with Colorado you could drive back to lower altitudes in the Andes mtns that was a bit tougher dave

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@davej

Something else I should of mentioned in a post I just did was a finger o2 sensor the people from CA tried it when they were short of breath and o2 levels were in the dangerous levels that's when we used the bottled oxygen to get more o2 in their system good luck with Colorado you could drive back to lower altitudes in the Andes mtns that was a bit tougher dave

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@davej– Your post is very much appreciated. The device, which I neglected to recommend, is called a pulse oximeter. I'm wondering if you have one @sistertwo?

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@merpreb

@sistertwo– Good morning and welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. What a great question. My problem is lung cancer and loss of lung tissue and COPD. A few years back I visited my son in Portland, OR and we drove up to Mt Hood. My O2 levels were ok but boy did I feel the altitude! I felt ill and my legs could barely climb the stairs. I did however acclimate and was able to walk around and look up at the top.

My suggestion is to talk with his Pulmonologist and see if additional O2 might help or be recommended. 91-92 is on the low side but still considered good. Are you flying or driving?
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323292#preparing-for-high-altitude

Jump to this post

We are driving. I wish he had a pulmonologists! I wish he could see a doctor. With the virus everything is being put off and since his procedure he has not had an actual heart or lung doctor (smaller community). If he can get in for an appointment before we go (in a month) I would feel so much better, but they quit taking non-emergency patients last March and currently the numbers of COVID have greatly increased in our area. I don't know what is the lessor of the two evils. Were we are traveling the rate is much lower, so that is comforting.
Anyway, yes we have a couple pulse oximeters and we check the levels daily, especially when we travel. When it is low I check mine, too, so I know if it is the environment of just him. At night his O2 goes quite low (concerning to me, brushed off by him).
Those O2 meters are awesome! He could never tell when his heart was beating really fast so if we would have had one when his heart rate was going crazy, he could have been treated before he got so bad. I since have sent several to family members when they or their spouse has had issues. They are a greatly appreciative gift.
Thank you for the link and your responds. Greatly appreciated.

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@sistertwo

We are driving. I wish he had a pulmonologists! I wish he could see a doctor. With the virus everything is being put off and since his procedure he has not had an actual heart or lung doctor (smaller community). If he can get in for an appointment before we go (in a month) I would feel so much better, but they quit taking non-emergency patients last March and currently the numbers of COVID have greatly increased in our area. I don't know what is the lessor of the two evils. Were we are traveling the rate is much lower, so that is comforting.
Anyway, yes we have a couple pulse oximeters and we check the levels daily, especially when we travel. When it is low I check mine, too, so I know if it is the environment of just him. At night his O2 goes quite low (concerning to me, brushed off by him).
Those O2 meters are awesome! He could never tell when his heart was beating really fast so if we would have had one when his heart rate was going crazy, he could have been treated before he got so bad. I since have sent several to family members when they or their spouse has had issues. They are a greatly appreciative gift.
Thank you for the link and your responds. Greatly appreciated.

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@sistertwo– Ok, you are driving. I assume that your elevation is lower than CO's. So what I'm thinking is that as the elevation rises he'll have a chance to acclimate more. This might just help him. If you can't get in to see a pulmonologist before your trip then maybe if there's a problem you can see one in CO?

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@davej

Something else I should of mentioned in a post I just did was a finger o2 sensor the people from CA tried it when they were short of breath and o2 levels were in the dangerous levels that's when we used the bottled oxygen to get more o2 in their system good luck with Colorado you could drive back to lower altitudes in the Andes mtns that was a bit tougher dave

Jump to this post

Thank you! We decided to make a loop trip and go down to TX to see our other daughter, too. Her work has a Ribbon Cutting ceremony for the hotel she manages so the timing works to see both of them.
I hadn't realized South Africa was a higher altitude, but an African Safari is on our bucket list. I don't suppose there is a leaf like that around here.
I have heard of even healthy people using O2 on their first night of being in the Vail/Avon area, but I don't know how it works. Does it require a mask? Is it something we should get here in Minnesota before we leave or wait until we get into CO? Do you return the bottles? Sorry for my ignorance on these things. We do use a finger monitor and he always stops when out of breath (which is often). He doesn't get any exercise, especially now when he doesn't even go into stores with me. His intentions are good, but……
Thank you!

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@sistertwo– No apologies ever needed. Most people who carry oxygen with them have small tubes that fit into the nose and a long tube that connects to a small container. But there are now all sorts of different kinds of masks for sale. Perhaps a surgical supply store could help? You also will need to find out how much oxygen he will need- the saturation level, that is.

Liked by sistertwo

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@merpreb

@davej– Your post is very much appreciated. The device, which I neglected to recommend, is called a pulse oximeter. I'm wondering if you have one @sistertwo?

Jump to this post

Yes I do have one I bought it at either walgreens or cvs for like 30 bucks well with it to just keep tabs on your body dave

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@sistertwo

We are driving. I wish he had a pulmonologists! I wish he could see a doctor. With the virus everything is being put off and since his procedure he has not had an actual heart or lung doctor (smaller community). If he can get in for an appointment before we go (in a month) I would feel so much better, but they quit taking non-emergency patients last March and currently the numbers of COVID have greatly increased in our area. I don't know what is the lessor of the two evils. Were we are traveling the rate is much lower, so that is comforting.
Anyway, yes we have a couple pulse oximeters and we check the levels daily, especially when we travel. When it is low I check mine, too, so I know if it is the environment of just him. At night his O2 goes quite low (concerning to me, brushed off by him).
Those O2 meters are awesome! He could never tell when his heart was beating really fast so if we would have had one when his heart rate was going crazy, he could have been treated before he got so bad. I since have sent several to family members when they or their spouse has had issues. They are a greatly appreciative gift.
Thank you for the link and your responds. Greatly appreciated.

Jump to this post

My freinds with heart issues also have a watch that takes heart beat like an ekg he can send his results to the doctor from his watch he sent the heart issues he was having in mexico doctor here in minneapolis told him to see a doctor and what drugs to take to get him back to mn in a couple of days

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@sistertwo

Thank you! We decided to make a loop trip and go down to TX to see our other daughter, too. Her work has a Ribbon Cutting ceremony for the hotel she manages so the timing works to see both of them.
I hadn't realized South Africa was a higher altitude, but an African Safari is on our bucket list. I don't suppose there is a leaf like that around here.
I have heard of even healthy people using O2 on their first night of being in the Vail/Avon area, but I don't know how it works. Does it require a mask? Is it something we should get here in Minnesota before we leave or wait until we get into CO? Do you return the bottles? Sorry for my ignorance on these things. We do use a finger monitor and he always stops when out of breath (which is often). He doesn't get any exercise, especially now when he doesn't even go into stores with me. His intentions are good, but……
Thank you!

Jump to this post

No bottles just get thrown out and it's just a finger contraption no mask needed sounds like you are using one already. You could drive back down to Denver at night which is lower altitude than aspen

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@sistertwo

Thank you! We decided to make a loop trip and go down to TX to see our other daughter, too. Her work has a Ribbon Cutting ceremony for the hotel she manages so the timing works to see both of them.
I hadn't realized South Africa was a higher altitude, but an African Safari is on our bucket list. I don't suppose there is a leaf like that around here.
I have heard of even healthy people using O2 on their first night of being in the Vail/Avon area, but I don't know how it works. Does it require a mask? Is it something we should get here in Minnesota before we leave or wait until we get into CO? Do you return the bottles? Sorry for my ignorance on these things. We do use a finger monitor and he always stops when out of breath (which is often). He doesn't get any exercise, especially now when he doesn't even go into stores with me. His intentions are good, but……
Thank you!

Jump to this post

@sistertwo – I have heard this too. And when you need assistance and it's available you use it!

REPLY
@sistertwo

Thank you! We decided to make a loop trip and go down to TX to see our other daughter, too. Her work has a Ribbon Cutting ceremony for the hotel she manages so the timing works to see both of them.
I hadn't realized South Africa was a higher altitude, but an African Safari is on our bucket list. I don't suppose there is a leaf like that around here.
I have heard of even healthy people using O2 on their first night of being in the Vail/Avon area, but I don't know how it works. Does it require a mask? Is it something we should get here in Minnesota before we leave or wait until we get into CO? Do you return the bottles? Sorry for my ignorance on these things. We do use a finger monitor and he always stops when out of breath (which is often). He doesn't get any exercise, especially now when he doesn't even go into stores with me. His intentions are good, but……
Thank you!

Jump to this post

@sistertwo Sounds like you have a big trip planned! I live in Colorado, north of Denver. I would strongly suggest that your husband see his primary care doctor before he attempts this trip. Better safe than sorry.
A few things I recommend to people:
NO alcohol—it really does you in when going to a higher altitude
Be prepared for snow and ice! You need all-wheel drive or chains—it’s the law . Traffic is slow from Denver to aspen with lots of hills (mountains) so your car should be in good condition. Always carry extra blankets, water and food.
I’ll let these websites tell you more: than
https://www.pikes-peak.com/high-altitude-tips/
https://health.clevelandclinic.org/understanding-altitude-sickness-5-best-tips-for-your-next-mountain-trip/
These are just some websites that may be helpful.
Good luck and safe travels!

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Thank you, Becky. We are thinking about cutting over on Hwy 69 since we haven't traveled south of Granite before. We will be driving our 1500 AWD Ram truck, arriving Oct 23rd. Do you think we should go to Denver and then out? Besides the scary 82, we have also been to Estes Park and Pikes Peak. All trips were Both trips were fine for him, but his health was better then. Thank you for your tips.
Mayo actually just now returned his call from 2 days ago and I talked to her (he is sleeping). She said their schedule was weeks out and thought his condition should be seen locally within the next week or two. So I called another clinic (not the VA where he has a tele-appt set) and he will be seen Oct 5th by a doctor he saw in ER awhile back. I sure feel a lot better knowing he will be at a clinic that actually has a pulmonary department. Perhaps we will not be doing any traveling, but that's fine. This comes first! Thank you!
Sometimes when I post on this Mayo board, it clears my mind and puts the urgency in perspective. THANK YOU, ALL!

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@sistertwo

Thank you, Becky. We are thinking about cutting over on Hwy 69 since we haven't traveled south of Granite before. We will be driving our 1500 AWD Ram truck, arriving Oct 23rd. Do you think we should go to Denver and then out? Besides the scary 82, we have also been to Estes Park and Pikes Peak. All trips were Both trips were fine for him, but his health was better then. Thank you for your tips.
Mayo actually just now returned his call from 2 days ago and I talked to her (he is sleeping). She said their schedule was weeks out and thought his condition should be seen locally within the next week or two. So I called another clinic (not the VA where he has a tele-appt set) and he will be seen Oct 5th by a doctor he saw in ER awhile back. I sure feel a lot better knowing he will be at a clinic that actually has a pulmonary department. Perhaps we will not be doing any traveling, but that's fine. This comes first! Thank you!
Sometimes when I post on this Mayo board, it clears my mind and puts the urgency in perspective. THANK YOU, ALL!

Jump to this post

@sistertwo– I'm so glad to hear this! It's great to talk things through and get support. We are always here for you and it does tend to put things in perspective, doesn't it?

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