Tracking my efforts to beat Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), aka CFIDS, aka CFS

Tracking my efforts to beat Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), aka CFIDS, aka CFS

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Things That Make It Worse: Altitude and Air Travel

I'm starting a series of posts tracking what makes my ME symptoms better and worse.  While I've discovered a number of things that have marginally improved my symptoms, today I'll focus on what makes them worse.

I've discovered that high altitudes and air travel seem to worsen my symptoms.  (I say "seem" because you can never be sure after one or two experiences.  There are too many other variables).

Two weeks ago, my wife and I took a trip to a family cabin in the nearby mountains, at an altitude of 5100 feet (554 meters).  Before we embarked, I was leery of the possible effects of the altitude, because one of my symptoms is shortness of breath.  I wondered how much worse the shortness of breath would be at high altitude.  On arriving at the cabin Friday night, I felt great, and wasn't fazed by the process of unpacking the car and lugging heavy bags up a steep flight of stairs.  I felt more-or-less normal that first night.

But by mid-morning the next morning, I started to crash.  Nausea, fatigue, light headedness and shortness of breath all came on strong.   By early afternoon, it was obvious that we needed to cut the vacation short and drive back down to sea level.  The strange thing is, I was feeling fine again the next day.  This made me fairly certain that the altitude caused the crash.

This past weekend, we flew by airliner to San Francisco for the Christmas holiday (a short 1 hour and 10 minute flight each way).  On the way to San Francisco, once again, I felt fine, but crashed the following day.  Again, however, it was a short crash, and I improved by the second day.  Unfortunately, the second day involved a return trip home.  I think it was these two trips in three days that ensured a more severe crash.  It could be the effects of the rapid altitude/pressure changes, or it could be the exposure to the notoriously germ-filled environments of airplane cabins and airports.  I'll never know, but I started going downhill yesterday and am much worse this morning.

Whatever the exact cause, I'll need to think carefully before planning any air travel in the future.  At the very least, I know that two flights in three days is probably too much.

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