Photo of the "Welcome to Colorful Colorado" sign on a sunny bright day.

High elevation combined with increased climate change can make Colorado weather hot, dry and a bit unpredictable. Here are six tips to help you stay healthy this fall.

1. Acclimate to the altitude 

If you’re new to the state or coming from a region with lower elevation, it’s important to take a few weeks to acclimate to the altitude. While downtown Boulder sits at about 5,300 feet above sea level, it’s easy to travel much higher than that in a short amount of time. For instance, the Flatirons summit is above 7,000 feet. While symptoms of altitude sickness typically occur between 7,500 and 8,000 feet in elevation, many may experience mild symptoms before they reach this range. 

Here are a few signs of altitude sickness to watch out for:

  • Headache
  • Sickness, nausea
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shortness of breath

If you think you may be experiencing altitude sickness, follow these tips to treat it:

  • Stop and rest. If possible, descend to a lower altitude.
  • Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to treat headaches.
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and reduce symptoms.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol, vaping or exercising for the next 24 to 48 hours.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention right away:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion, altered mental state
  • Fever
  • Blue tinge to skin or lips
  • Breathing difficulties, even when resting or lying down
  • Chest tightness
  • Persistent coughing with pink or white frothy liquid
  • Tiredness, weakness
  • Rapid heart rate

 These symptoms are an indicator of high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE) or high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), which can be fatal if left untreated.

2. Wear sun protection

Colorado’s high elevation makes it the perfect place to catch a sunburn. This is because there is less atmosphere to protect against UV radiation. Follow these tips to best protect yourself from sun damage:

  • Wear SPF 30+
    Lather up with sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher. It’s usually best to apply your first coat of sunscreen about 30 minutes before you head outside. You’ll also need to reapply every one to two hours while out in the sun. For the best coverage, opt for sunscreen lotions rather than sprays. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen in the winter, too, especially if you go skiing this winter.
  • Avoid peak sun times
    Keep to the shade and try to avoid prolonged sun exposure, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are most intense.
  • Wear a hat
    Pick out a hat with a wide brim that provides ample shade and protection against the sun. While baseball caps are popular, they may not be the best option for protecting your head or face from sun damage. Instead, try to opt for a sun hat, bucket hat or other styles that offer more protection.
  • Wear sunglasses
    The sun can affect more than just your skin. That’s why it’s important to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from sun damage. Polarized sunglasses can reduce the impact of UV rays and help reduce glare during the daytime.
  • Look for UPF clothing
    UPF stands for ‘ultraviolet protection factor’ and is used to indicate how much UV radiation a fabric allows to reach your skin. If you are shopping for new hiking or outdoor gear, be sure to check the UPF rating and look for products that are rated as UPF 30 or above. These will offer you the best protection against the sun. Additionally, it’s important to remember that fabric wetness, wear and laundering can lessen the effectiveness of UPF clothing over time.

3. Beat the bugs

Common Colorado bugs include mosquitos, bees, wasps, ticks, ants, spiders and gnats. Luckily for us, this region is relatively safe in terms of bug-related illnesses like Lyme disease (from ticks) and West Nile (from mosquitos). However, stings and bites can still be itchy and annoying. If you’re looking to beat the bugs, here are some tips to follow:

  • Avoid standing or stagnant water, as it can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants if possible. Consider tucking your pants into your socks and your shirt into your pants to block potential entries for bugs.
  • Use an EPA-registered bug repellent. Most repellents are available in sprays, lotions or as wearable bracelets.
  • Walk in the center of trails and inspect your body for ticks when you get home, especially if you’ve spent time in grassy, bushy or wooded areas. 

Please note:

While cases of Lyme disesase, Colorado Tick Fever (both caused by ticks) and West Nile Virus (caused by mosquitos) are rare in Colorado, it’s important to be mindful of possible symptoms, like headaches, stiffness, rashes, joint pain and vomiting. If you experience these symptoms, make an appointment with a healthcare provider

4. Prepare for unpredictable weather

Check the forecast before heading outside, and remember that Colorado weather can change in an instant. The best way to prepare for abrupt weather changes is to wear or pack layers with you when venturing outside, especially during the late afternoon. Be prepared for unexpected wind, rain or hail by bringing a windbreaker or rain jacket. If you think you may get wet, opt for synthetic materials like polyester and nylon, which dry more quickly. Cotton-based clothing can retain moisture and leave you sopping wet by the end of the day.

Note: If you plan to hike at high elevations (i.e., above 10,000 feet), it’s important to start your journey early in the day. Severe thunderstorms and hail are common in the afternoons and evening.

5. Stay hydrated

High elevation can leave you feeling more dehydrated than usual. Be sure to drink one liter (32 oz.) of water every two hours while doing physical activity outside. It’s also important to bring extra water if you plan to be outdoors with pets or other people. Avoiding caffeine (a diuretic) can also help you stay hydrated for longer.

6. Avoid overheating 

If you were here over the summer, you know that Colorado can get hot, hot, hot. If the heat index is above 90°F (32°C), you should use extreme caution when engaging in outdoor activities or exercise. Keep in mind that the heat index is a measure of how hot it feels, not how hot the reported outdoor temperature is. 

It’s also important to be mindful of outdoor temperatures when on campus, especially if you’re commuting to classes. Temperatures between 90° F and 105°F (32°C - 40°C), you may experience heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke. 

If you get too hot, follow these tips: 

  • Get out of the heat by resting in a cool place such as an air conditioned building, shade or in front of a fan. 
  • Drink cool liquids like water or sports drinks. Avoid drinking alcohol or caffeine as this can make you more dehydrated. 
  • Cool down by taking a cold shower, using ice packs or wetting towels in cold water to apply to your neck and head. 
  • Remove any unnecessary or tight clothing. 

If you or someone you know experiences any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention: 

  • Nausea, vomiting 
  • Dizziness, fainting 
  • Shortness of breath, stop breathing 
  • Fever of 102°F (39°C) after 30 minutes of treatment 
  • Shock, seizures 
  • Weakness 
  • Loss of consciousness


Apothecary Pharmacy

The Apothecary Pharmacy at Wardenburg Health Center carries a variety of over-the-counter products, including sunscreen, allergy medication, lip balm, aloe vera, anti-itch cream and more.

Adventure Resource Center

The Adventure Resource Center is a free and open resource to help you plan your next trip into the outdoors. They provide route recommendations, backcountry meal planning tips, equipment recommendations and mapping services.

Outdoor Equipment Rentals

Outdoor Pursuits offers outdoor gear rentals to students, staff and faculty. Rental equipment includes hiking, camping, climbing, tubing, water sports and winter equipment options.

Figueroa Family Wellness Suite

Did you know you can pick up free sunscreen, first aid and other wellness supplies at the Figueroa Family Wellness Suite on the third floor of Wardenburg Health Center?