Asthmatic alpine hikers?

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Asthmatic alpine hikers?

Postby ocean_roots » Tue Feb 22, 2011 3:47 pm

I'm not really just starting, but I am just getting back into shape to start hiking again. I have recently began to try and get back into the shape I was (only a week now), and am having asthma worse than I used to, especially on things like the incline, and jogging on elevated terrains. I have inhalers, and take a puff or two about 20 mins before starting. Does anyone out there have any home remidies they have tried to help get them through it?


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Re: Asthmatic alpine hikers?

Postby tmathews » Tue Feb 22, 2011 3:59 pm

I'm also asthmatic and do carry a rescue inhaler. I don't have any home remedies, unfortunately, but I found that when I was taking Singulair it dramatically reduced the number of episodes I had (didn't have one for two years at one point). I've also found that pressure breathing helps (purse your lips when you exhale). Here's a thread about pressure breathing:

Once you do get out into the hills, make sure that your hiking partners know that you have asthma. You should always disclose any medical conditions that you may have to your partners in case something happens.

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Re: Asthmatic alpine hikers?

Postby Jon Frohlich » Tue Feb 22, 2011 4:29 pm

The only real advice I can give is to see a doctor about it and see what they can do about it getting it under better control if the rescue inhaler doesn't work. I've dealt with my asthma pretty much my whole life. If you can find out what is triggering your asthma (exercise, cold weather, allergies, etc) you can get a better handle on it. Mine turns out to be mostly allergy related so going to altitude for me is usually a good thing. I'm using Qvar right now to try and get mine under better control so I can use my albuterol less.

I use my rescue inhaler before I start a hike and I'm usually fine after that. I've had some issues from time to time with things like wildfire smoke but I just try and avoid those situations if possible. Exercise over time will certainly help and get the lungs in better shape. There are plenty of people in the mountains and on this site with asthma so it can certainly be done. I know of at least a couple of finishers with asthma (self included) and I'm sure there are plenty more.

Good luck!

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Re: Asthmatic alpine hikers?

Postby centrifuge » Tue Feb 22, 2011 6:34 pm

I have had asthma as long as I can remember, and despite a very rough childhood with it, managed to get it under control with meds in my adulthood. That being said, if your rescue inhaler isnt working, see your doctor. I struggled with my breathing until I got on Advair, for some its Qvar, or Singulair. It depends on what your body responds to, but you wont know if you don't see your doctor (I am going for a theme here). I have reached a point where I can do pretty much anything I want, as long as I take my meds. I always have the rescue inhaler, and my partners always know about my asthma. That is coming from having a collapsed lung when I was in 8th grade, so if your asthma is managed, it does not have to stop you from enjoying the mountains so long as you.. can you guess? Yup. See your doctor.
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Re: Asthmatic alpine hikers?

Postby eagrnnr » Tue Feb 22, 2011 6:37 pm

I'm asthmatic, and my emergency inhaler works for me before I go distance running and when we come out and hike. One trick I do know is that caffeine can help, because the caffeine is a stimulant and helps open the airways. Doesn't always work, but sometimes it does. Also, make sure the inhaler is primed, you give it some good shakes, all that good stuff. The cold always makes it worse for me. :( But anyway, besides that, make sure you are working out with your body upright, in through the nose, out through the mouth, for maximum oxygen intake. Hope you get it worked out, asthma sucks. Also, advair can help over the longer term.

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Re: Asthmatic alpine hikers?

Postby mlees » Wed Feb 23, 2011 9:55 pm

I agree with above. Should probably have pulmonologist/allergist monitor and advise your condition before training.

If you do want to begin training, I would take inhalers with you in a controlled environment (somewhere close to help)

I ran track with asthma in high school, and would religiously take inhaler immediately before practice. If I forgot a dose I would suffer greatly. Thankfully it resolved and by the end of the season I didn't even need an inhaler any more (to this day).

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Re: Asthmatic alpine hikers?

Postby ocean_roots » Mon Feb 28, 2011 2:40 pm

Thanks everyone for the advise. I think i am going to have to go back and get put on a daily inhaler, because my recue inhalers just aren't working that well!

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Re: Asthmatic alpine hikers?

Postby bif » Mon Feb 28, 2011 3:17 pm

Very good suggestions. There are two classes of treatment you are presenting here : 1) rescue and 2) maintenance .
Of course you all know this, so keep in mind when you are feeling good and you stop taking your maintenance medications you increase the liklihood of asthma attacks. So start on you maintance meds 4-6 weeks before you plan to do anything out of the ordinary,such as hiking, parachute jumping or taking a vacation. Events that are not in your daily routine may trigger an attack.

Also for medications that are pressurized canisters or Pressurized Metered Dose Inhalers(PMDI), Albuterol, Qvar, Advair canister(not advair discus), the use of a spacer (aerochamber, optihaler) increases the medication deposition into the lung ( some say up to 90% greater effective) instead of squirting the PMDI into your mouth where it hits the back of the mouth. It will work better.

I don't understand why patients stop taking their maintenance medications when they are feeling better, but they almost all do.

Are you using a spacer with you rescue inhaler? Use it with all you PMDIs.


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Re: Asthmatic alpine hikers?

Postby steelfrog » Mon Feb 28, 2011 3:22 pm

Boy, I had a pretty good attack on Saturday doing, ironically, a race up a building in Big D to benefit the American Lung Association. 56 floors. I did it in a pedestrian 12 minutes, but at the top, as I warmed down, a massive asthma attack hit me. I have an asthma attack every few years, so I was totally unprepared. Won't let that happen again!

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Re: Asthmatic alpine hikers?

Postby Mark A Steiner » Tue Mar 01, 2011 8:07 am

My wife, who is asthmatic, uses a maintenance medication called Intal (chromolyn sodium). Unfortunately in her case, she has a nebulizer for in-home use to provide this benefit, limiting outdoor hiking opportunities. Obviously not something to take on a long hike in the high country, although there are portable, battery-powered nebulizers available. From experience, the quality of these units varies in their ability to provide the medicinal benefit.
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