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Here are some ideas how you can ward off some of the negative effects of residing and performing at high altitude:

  • Get Used to It. If you're working at high altitude for the first time, allow yourself to become acclimated. If at all possible, get to your destination early so that your body has some time to adjust. For some people, it takes only a few days; for others it may take several weeks. In any event, you should try to take it easy until you feel comfortable.

    You're getting sleepy ...

  • Sleep. Get plenty of sleep. Give your body a chance to restore itself. Your sleep cycles may take some adjusting at high altitudes. If you want to be in top form for your performing, be sure to be rested.

  • Reduce Caffeine Intake. That triple latte from Starbucks might be appealing. That Diet Coke might be enticing. But the caffeine that they contain can dehydrate you. At sea level, you might not even be aware of it. But at higher altitudes, you're more likely to notice the effects of caffeine on your system.

Drink lots of water throughout the day, even if you're not thirsty.

  • Drink. Our bodies are approximately 70% water. When you're in an arid climate (as is true many high altitude locations), you can easily become dehydrated. That water must be replenished. Skiers and other outdoorsy types know that dehydration happens even if you don't perspire. So you should be sure to drink lots of water throughout the day, whether you're thirsty or not. (By the way, if you're vain, consider this: the number one beauty tip of supermodels is to drink lots of water.)

  • Don't Drink. An icy cold beer can taste really good when you're thirsty. But it doesn't really quench your thirst. Alcohol can dehydrate you further. You're much better off with water or sports drinks. (You'll probably remember your lines better, too.)

  • Moisturize. The skin is the largest organ of the human body and, at high altitudes, it's especially susceptible to dryness. Use a non-comedogenic moisturizer (one that won't clog pores). After your warm (not hot) bath or shower, apply the moisturizer while your skin is still damp. And don't limit it just to exposed skin, such as face and hands. Arms, legs and torsos get thirsty, too. And here's a tip for sore hands: instead of rubbing your hands dry on a towel, lightly blot them and apply a little moisturizer while they're still damp. If you do this each time you wash them, you can help avoid painful cracking and drying. (No one wants to be in pain while playing a difficult passage.)

  • Humidify. In additional to the natural aridness of many high altitude locations, you may also have to contend with additional dryness from heating systems. It's a great idea to use a humidifier, but remember that not all humidifiers are created equal. Cool mist humidifiers are susceptible to bacteria and mold, so warm mist humidifiers are preferable. Even with warm mist humidifiers, you should make sure to clean them regularly and use a commercially-available bacteriostat.

    The nose knows ...

  • Spray. Alright. It's not the most glamourous subject. But you can greatly help out your breathing if you use a saline nasal spray. Get the cheap brand. (Saline is saline.) Use it regularly to offset the effects of dryness. But be careful not to confuse the saline spray with decongestant or antihistimine sprays. Those sprays can make the situation much worse, and they can become very addictive.

  • Stop Smoking. This one seems almost too obvious to mention. Even under the best conditions, if you smoke, your body is not going to be able to process the air that you breathe as efficiently as it would if you didn't smoke. At high altitude, it's even worse. (Did you really need another reason to quit?)

    Doctor, it hurts when I go like this ...

  • See a Doctor. If any altitude-related symptoms persist, by all means, see your doctor. He or she may be able to take measures to help you become acclimated to high altitude. There's a fine line between adjusting to a new altitude and altitude sickness. Don't risk serious health problems by delaying medical care.

Copyright 1999. TVW Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.

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