Outdoors

Recognize symptoms of altitude sickness

Hikers often share a common goal: Reach the top of a climb in the best time possible.

But if climbers move too fast toward the summit of a mountain, they could fall victim to altitude sickness.

Altitude illness results when a person travels to a higher altitude faster than the body can adapt to the new height. Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is the most common form of altitude illness. While it can occur at altitudes as low as 4,000 feet, it most often occurs in abrupt ascents to more than 9,000 feet.

The degree of altitude illness varies widely among climbers and hikers. Symptoms of altitude illness often resemble those of an alcohol hangover, such as a headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and even vomiting. More severe symptoms can include difficulty breathing even while resting, coughing, confusion and the inability to walk in a straight line.

If altitude sickness symptoms appear, a climber should stop the ascent or go back down to a lower altitude until the symptoms go away. If more serious symptoms appear, a person should descend to a lower altitude immediately and seek medical attention.

The best way to avoid altitude illness is to plan a gradual ascent, with extra rest days at intermediate altitudes. A healthy person can probably safely go from sea level to an altitude of 8,000 feet in a few days. Above 8,000 feet, however, the ascent should go no more than 1,000 feet per day.

Keep yellow jackets at bay with these tips

The best way to prevent an unpleasant encounter with a yellow jacket is to keep a few defensive measures in mind when eating outdoors:

Keep your outdoor eating site clean. Do not leave sweet foods in open containers, and make sure all drinks, particularly juices and sodas, stay covered.

Avoid wearing scented perfumes, hairspray, suntan lotion, cosmetics, deodorants and shaving lotions. The sweet aroma attracts the insects.

Check wet items, such as towels or clothing, for yellow jackets, before using or sitting on them.

A yellow jacket usually attacks when it's disturbed or feels threatened. If a yellow jacket lands on you, stay calm, and brush it off gently.

- Don't wear a colorful shirt, such as one with a flashy Hawaiian design. Yellow jackets could be attracted to it.

- Never squash and kill a yellow jacket. A smashed bug emits a chemical alarm that will put nearby wasps and yellow jackets into attack mode.

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Source: Sierra Club

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Edited and compiled by Chuck Myers.

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(c) 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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