Physiological Adaptation to High Altitude in Children
High-altitude travel that was once exclusive to mountaineers, explorers and scientists is becoming more and more popular with travelers each year. Families are skiing the resorts of Colorado, trekking through the Himalayas, and visiting high mountain villages in the Andes on an ever-increasing scale. In each of these scenarios, children are more frequently accompanying their parents to altitudes over 4000 meters, yet decades of high-altitude research have focused on the physiological responses to low-oxygen almost exclusively in adults.
The overall purpose of this work was to examine the physiological effect of a prolonged stay at high altitude in lowland children. We aimed to characterize ventilatory, cardiac, pulmonary, and cerebrovascular adjustments made during acclimatization, and to compare those changes with physiological responses observed in adults.
This study consisted of 3 components performed at 3 different altitudes. Baseline testing was performed at UBC in Kelowna (344m). In August, child and adult participants were transported to California and driven to the Crooked Creek Station (3050m) on White Mountain California, where they spent two nights. Physiological measurements were taken immediately upon arrival at the Crooked Creek research station. After 2 nights at Crooked Creek, participants were driven to the Barcroft Station (3811m), where they will stay for 4 nights/5 days. This stepwise ascent resembles an ascent profile (i.e. 2 rest days at ~3000m) commonly used on trekking expeditions to high-altitude destinations.
Analysis is ongoing, stay tuned for publication updates.
A project of this magnitude takes a team of experts to successfully complete. The following individuals and institutions were extensively involved aspects of this project.
- Dr. Dan Cooper, University of California Irvine
- Dr. Isabel Algaze, University of California Irvine
- Dr. Mike Stembridge, Cardiff Metropolitan University
- Dr. Kurt Smith, Lakehead University
- Dr. Phil Ainslie and Dr. Greg DuManoir, UBCO
Take a look at what went on during the expedition:
See Twitter #kidswithaltitude for posts from several members of the team.
This expedition required financial support from several sources. PERL is extremely grateful for support from the following funding organizations for this expedition.