High Elevation and Ostomies | Ask Laura

Laura Cox, LPC
Ostomy Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
05/09/16  12:12 PM PST
high elevation and ostomies

Hi Laura, next month my wife and I will be traveling to Colorado to hike and raft for the first time after my ostomy surgery. I feel prepared to travel because I’ve read your blog about traveling with an ostomy. The only thing I’m anxious about is that we live in California at sea level. How do I handle altitude sickness and staying hydrated with my ostomy while enjoying my trip to Colorado?



Hi Rob, that’s a fantastic question! Since having my ostomy I have hiked in a couple of high altitude places, including Colorado. I’m glad you’re aware of the extra difficulties living with an ostomy can have on the severity of altitude sickness. The good news is, with preparation and a smart game-plan, you can have a great trip and hopefully decrease the chances of having altitude sickness.

Firstly, I want to emphasize that hydrating and replenishing electrolytes is one of the most important steps you can take to ward off altitude sickness. I would suggest making sure you’re well hydrated for 2-3 days before going, and continuing to hydrate and replenish electrolytes throughout your stay. Dehydration happens faster at higher altitudes.  Replenishing electrolytes can be done through electrolyte-enhanced beverages or by food sources. One of my favorite morning snacks before exploring the mountain is a banana cut up in granola.

Since hydration is important, you may want to avoid caffeine while at high altitude since it’s a diuretic and may lead to urinating more.

Secondly, I know you’ll probably want to start with your activities right away, but it’s important to let your body acclimate before any strenuous activity. This means you may want to take it easy the first couple days you’re there so your body has time to produce more red blood cells to oxygenate your body. I always like to take a lazy raft ride, get a massage or explore the town I’m staying in the first day or two. If possible, it’s always nice to stay at a slightly lower elevation the first couple of days if that doesn’t interfere with your plans. You may want to stay in Denver before heading up to the mountains.

Click here for common symptoms of altitude sickness and more tips on preventing/treating altitude sickness.

Good luck! I hope you and your wife enjoy your trip and are happy and healthy!


For more information, see related ostomy FAQ articles and resources here:

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  1. This all new to me. I am a few months with my ileostomy and this may be a very elementary question . It’s the summer, can I go swimming with my bag (affectionately named Herbert) and not have leaks? Any preventative prep I could do so I don’t lose anything more in my life

    Jeanne Keane

    1. Hi! That’s a very common question! You absolutely can go swimming with your pouch! I would suggest, if you’re worried about it, testing your seal out in the bath before going swimming. Most people (including myself) have no issues swimming with our normal pouching systems. If you are nervous, there are different barriers you can purchase to make the wafer even more water-tight. Here’s an article I wrote about it a while back! http://www.shieldhealthcare.com/community/videos/2014/09/22/swimming-with-an-ostomy/

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