High altitude headaches

May 3, 2010
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I'm a Cat 3 rider in the states. I seem to get really bad headaches when I do climbs that top out over 6000 feet. The headaches are in the front and don't improve with tylenol or nsaids, just with time (about a day). They don't occur when riding longer at lower altitudes and they do not seem to occur with climbing at lower altitudes (going from sea level to 4000 feet doesn't make them happen but 5500 to 7000 will)

I'm well hydrated and not over heated on these rides. I'm thinking that it may be a high altitude sickness sign?

Any thoughts folks?
 
Sep 13, 2010
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I don't think this is particularly unusual. I get those headaches after longish hikes. It may have something to do with the increase in blood pressure and an increase in blood flow to the brain. Did you notice those veins on the forehead?! It's also probably a good idea to hydrate well to mitigate any ill effects.
 
Apr 3, 2016
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nvcowboyfan said:
I'm a Cat 3 rider in the states. I seem to get really bad headaches when I do climbs that top out over 6000 feet. The headaches are in the front and don't improve with tylenol or nsaids, just with time (about a day). They don't occur when riding longer at lower altitudes and they do not seem to occur with climbing at lower altitudes (going from sea level to 4000 feet doesn't make them happen but 5500 to 7000 will)

I'm well hydrated and not over heated on these rides. I'm thinking that it may be a high altitude sickness sign?

Any thoughts folks?
6000ft isn't really high altitude, and it is unusual for people to have symptoms of altitude sickness at such a low altitude. Normally people just get breathless.

But It is possible, especially as what you describe sounds like mild AMS.
 
As one who used to be into high altitude mountaineering (up over 6,000m anyway), the most common ailment at altitude for people is headaches. It's so common that it's almost impossible to isolate what specifically affects you medically. But people usually don't feel it until over about 3,000m/10,000' or so.

The simplest, most effective way to mitigate it is to acclimate. If you have trouble at 6,000', can you spend some time in the previous days at 4-5,000', just hanging out? Or going for easy rides at that elevation? I'm not sure how easily you can do that.

Staying hydrated is definitely key also. It's very difficult to drink too much water, so make sure you're well hydrated.
 
Aug 4, 2014
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Re:

Alpe d'Huez said:
As one who used to be into high altitude mountaineering (up over 6,000m anyway), the most common ailment at altitude for people is headaches. It's so common that it's almost impossible to isolate what specifically affects you medically. But people usually don't feel it until over about 3,000m/10,000' or so.

The simplest, most effective way to mitigate it is to acclimate. If you have trouble at 6,000', can you spend some time in the previous days at 4-5,000', just hanging out? Or going for easy rides at that elevation? I'm not sure how easily you can do that.

Staying hydrated is definitely key also. It's very difficult to drink too much water, so make sure you're well hydrated.
+1. I only really feel it past 3,500m, but I know that some people start to struggle past 2,000m (6,500ft), I think it's mainly a physiology/acclimatization thing. Outside of the above, caffeine (and other stimulants) and "not eating too much" are home-spun remedies that may or may not work for you.
 

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