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Dr. Peter Hackett

Dr. Peter Hackett

Institute for Altitude Medicine (IFAM)

The Institute for Altitude Medicine in Telluride, Colorado is dedicated to wellness at altitude in the traveler, adventurer, and high altitude resident. We specialize in altitude issues such as altitude sickness, headache, high altitude pulmonary edema, and the effect of altitude on common medical conditions.

If you are traveling to high altitude and want to optimize your health, contact us.


Whether trekking in Nepal, doing high altitude mountaineering or skiing in Colorado, altitude acclimatization is the key to avoiding altitude sickness and improving altitude performance. The following are ways to optimize your adjustment to altitude and improve your chances of not getting altitude illness.

  • Slow ascent to altitude is the key to acclimatizing well. Almost anyone can get altitude illness if they go too high, too quickly. Because of the individual differences, a preventive rate of ascent for one person may be too slow or fast for another.
  • An overnight stay at an intermediate altitude such as Denver (5280 ft) or preferably a bit higher prior to further ascent into the mountains is very helpful. If traveling to Telluride, overnighting in Ridgway, Ouray, Placerville or Durango would be helpful, especially if the destination is Mountain Village.
  • Staying hydrated is important as it aids your body in acclimatizing.
  • Avoid use of alcohol or sleeping agents of the benzodiazepine family, since they both suppress breathing and result in lower blood oxygen. Other sleeping pills like Ambien or Lunesta do not affect breathing at high altitude and are safe. Avoid over-exertion for 1-2 days after arrival to altitude.
  • Acetazolamide (Diamox®) taken 24 hours prior to arrival to altitude and the first 2 days at altitude is 75% effective in preventing AMS. It speeds up the acclimatization process in the body, stimulates breathing, raises blood oxygen and increases urination.
  • Gingko biloba, according to some studies was effective in preventing AMS when started 5 days prior to ascending to altitude, at a dose of 100 mg twice a day.
  • Avoiding exposure to viral illness such as coughs and colds will improve your chances of staying healthy. When traveling consider wearing a mask if exposed to someone with a severe cough. Use proper hand washing and good hygiene to avoid transferring germs.