Most of us spend our lives living fairly close to sea level and our bodies are accustomed to breathing air of a certain density. But if you travel someplace where the altitudes are higher -- on a skiing trip to the Alps, for instance, or to the mountains of the Andes -- the air that you breathe will be thinner and your lungs will suddenly find themselves deprived of the oxygen levels they normally expect. The effects of this oxygen deprivation on your body can be debilitating. You can become weak, lightheaded or even develop stomach problems. You may find that you're suddenly unable to keep up with all those strenuous vacation plans you were so looking forward to when you were on lower ground.
Your body can adjust to these changes in altitude, but it takes time. If at all possible, take the trip by stages, spending the first night or two at somewhat lower altitudes. As your respiratory system adjusts, move up to greater heights. And if you're determined to hit the alpine slopes on the first afternoon of the trip, you might not want to spend the night at the ski lodge. Instead, book accommodations a couple of thousand feet closer to sea level so your body can catch up on oxygen while you sleep.
If you're looking for more ways to avoiding illness while traveling, follow the links on the next page.