The accessory Lady Gaga modeled in a recent Insta-selfie wasn’t part of a new tour costume—she was wearing an oxygen mask after being hospitalized for altitude sickness on the night of August 6th following a concert in Denver. Her caption: “Altitude Sickness is no Joke!”
Gaga’s right, actually. Altitude sickness, formally known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), affects 25% of all Colorado visitors who stay in locations higher than 8,000 feet above sea level, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There’s less oxygen at higher altitudes which can cause hangover-like symptoms, especially in people who live at or near sea level, the CDC says. Denver’s official elevation is 5,280 feet, which is why it’s known as the Mile-High City.
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Heading to higher climes? Prevent AMS by sleeping at lower altitudes if possible (even if you’re spending your days higher up) and by making any ascents gradually. Then watch out for these symptoms, warns the National Institutes of Health:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
- Rapid pulse
- Shortness of breath with exertion
If you start noticing these signs of AMS, the first and best treatment is to go back down to a lower altitude; head to a doctor or the ER if symptoms persist or get worse—just like Gaga did.
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Camille Chatterjee is the Deputy Editor of Health.