There are strange things that happen to us because of the elevation we live at. Most of my life, I lived at sea level, but when I moved up in the world (As in literally up in elevation), all sorts of things changed. If you have lived a similar life at an elevation close to zero, and are planning to make a move to somewhere like Boise, Idaho, which is not the tallest place in the world but is still fairly high above the oceans, there are some changes that you should expect to take place. Some are minor. Some are relatively major as long as you are not aware of what is happening and why. So today, we are going to talk about some of those changes, and what you can do to adjust to a life at a high altitude. We are going to focus on Idaho, but these principles apply to any place that exists at altitude, or for any mountain climbing you plan on doing. Furthermore, the largest portion of Idaho’s population lives in the Treasure Valley, which despite being a valley, is still a few thousand feet above sea level, and other places that you are likely to visit while in Idaho will be higher.
Starting with a minor difficulty, cooking will take longer. I know. Very minor indeed. Specifically, any baking you plan to do will take a little more time to accomplish. This is all because the boiling point of water changes as you climb in elevation. At sea level, it takes water longer to reach its boiling point than at a few thousand feet in the air. You might say: “If water is boiling faster, why does that not speed cooking up?” The answer is, the water’s boiling point is as hot as it is going to get. Once it is boiling, it will get no hotter. Sure, you reach that point faster at a higher elevation, but once you are there, the water is not going to its job of cooking the same. This is why baking gets slowed down (And any other cooking that involves boiling). Whatever you are baking, it is the heat of the water that is doing the cooking for you. The water in the dish boils, heating up the rest of the food. Since that water is not as hot as it can be elsewhere, it is going to take longer. The difference in time is not always major, but if you are used to a dish taking a certain amount of time to be ready, you might find your entire timing place thrown off. Fit these extra minutes and seconds into your planning, and you will be golden, just like whatever delicious food you are making.
At higher altitudes, there is less air in the air. Okay, I will be a little more specific. The higher you climb, the less oxygen is floating around you. There is less of everything, but oxygen is the most important to your body’s general functionality. This has a number of side effects. You are going to tire out sooner. Whatever form of exercise or activity you are used to is going to take more energy out of you to do. If you take morning runs around your Treasure Valley neighborhood, you are going to find that you are breathing harder and feeling worse more quickly than you did at lower elevations. Even just day to day life can become more difficult, especially if you do not regularly exercise. You might find that you are sleeping far more than you are used to, just because you are not able to get enough oxygen to replenish your stores of energy. Luckily, this is a generally temporary setback. As long as you push yourself to maintain the lifestyle you are used to (Or improve it if you want), you will eventually come back to normal. You will be able to stay awake and active the usual amount, and might even find that you are stronger for it.
Similarly, having less oxygen running through your body will also mean you dehydrate faster. This comes from the fact that you are working harder than you are used to and using up the water you have, but it also is because you are not getting as much moisture from the air. If you are doing something strenuous, which is common in Idaho because of the call to explore the great outdoors, always be sure to carry plenty of water, and take frequent breaks to drink it. Otherwise, you are going to get dehydrated, which can happen very quickly and comes on without you able to notice it. Being thirsty is not a good enough sign. Drink even when you are not thirsty.
The sun is also going to be strictly more powerful at higher elevations. Idaho is a cold place, but if you are not careful, you can still get sunburns when you are not expecting it. Again, this is because the air is thinner. The rays of the sun do not have to do as much work as they have then past to make their way to you. Normally, if you lived at a lower elevation, there was a whole bunch of atmosphere that lessened the intensity of those rays before they got to you. Not so at high elevation. Whenever you are outdoors, make sure to bring proper protection from the sun and take plenty of moments to shelter yourself in bits of shade. A hat is a very good idea to. If you want a suntan, know that it is going to happen faster than you expect, so plan accordingly. You do not want to end up like a tomato, and not just because it will look embarrassing. Skin cancer is a real danger with serious sunburns (And even mild ones). Wear plenty of sunscreen, watch for moments to hid under shade, and off a hat to protect your face. Otherwise, you are honestly playing with your life.