Family Travel Survival Guides: Altitude with Kids

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#2 Coping with kids at altitude

Skiing this winter? Don’t let altitude take the edge off. Altitude sickness can present when you travel to heights of more than 800m and in Europe, Val Thorens, Tignes, Les Arcs and Val D’Isere all have lifts above 3,000m. Here’s how to tackle it if the worst happens.

  • Symptoms are caused by lower levels of oxygen in the air and will present between six and eight hours after arriving at a high altitude. Acclimatise slowly and try not to increase altitude by more than 300 metres a day.
  • Avoid flying directly to a high altitude. Engadin (Samedan), near St Moritz is Europe’s highest airport at 1,707m, but if you’re skiing in Colorado, Leadville airport is at a lofty 3,026m. Check before you fly.
  • Don’t land and expect to hike or ski straight away. The body needs to work a lot harder to get the same amount of oxygen at high altitude, so take it easy on day one – especially with little ones.
  • Appetite loss, headaches, nausea, dizziness and restless sleep are all symptoms of altitude sickness. Know what to look out for and keep a close eye on children, don’t assume they are just ratty from travel.
  • Keep hydrated. This will also help avoid sleep interruption.
  • Sunburn and sunstroke are both at increased risk at altitude, so have the factor 50 to hand.
  • If dizziness or sickness present in children, encourage fast and deep breathing to increase oxygen supply.
  • Don’t go higher for 24 hours after altitude sickness has kicked in, if possible go down to below 3,000m and stay there.
Are you planning a high altitude holiday? Tell us how you prepare.