For emergencies, dial 911.
Text to 911 is supported in Boulder county but only recommended if it is the only option.
Medical Attention and Healthcare
Boulder has several large hospitals with emergency care (ERs in the US treat life- or limb-threatening health conditions for all ages). If you do not have an emergency but need medical attention, you can visit an Urgent Care. If you have insurance in the US, the cost depends on what is covered. Please contact your health care provider for the best option in Boulder and Colorado.
If you travel to Colorado without a US insurance plan, it may be recommended to obtain insurance for the duration of the stay in the US. The US immigration authorities do not insist on travel insurance for the US tourist visa, however given the high cost of US healthcare arising from medical emergencies for visitors to the USA, it can be risky to travel to the US without insurance.
Boulder is 5,430 feet or 1655 meters above sea level. While this attracts various high-performing endurance athletes for altitude training, there are several risks from being suddenly exposed to altitude. Altitude-related risks can occur when individuals are not acclimatized to high elevations, and these risks can be more pronounced at higher altitudes (think your potential skiing trip before or after the conference, Breckenridge is up to 12840 feet or 3914 meters in elevation). Some of the common risks associated with high altitudes include:
- Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS): AMS is a common condition that can affect individuals who rapidly ascend to higher altitudes without proper acclimatization. Symptoms may include headache, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping.
- High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE): HAPE is a potentially life-threatening condition where fluid accumulates in the lungs, leading to breathing difficulties and severe respiratory distress. If you experience this, seek immediate medical attention. Dial 911.
- High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE): HACE is a rare but serious condition where fluid accumulates in the brain, leading to neurological symptoms such as confusion, loss of coordination, and coma. If you experience this, seek immediate medical attention. Dial 911.
To mitigate the risks associated with high altitudes, especially for those attending a conference in Boulder, the following measures are recommended:
- Gradual Ascent: If possible, arrive in Boulder a day or two before the conference to allow your body time to acclimate to the higher elevation gradually.
- Hydration: Drink plenty of water to stay well-hydrated (Water may not be enough! Consider juices and hydration drinks). The air in Colorado is very dry, leading to increased fluid loss. This means simply by existing at altitude your fluid loss increases.
- Limit Alcohol and Caffeine: Avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine intake, as they can contribute to dehydration.
- Light Physical Activity: Engage in light physical activity and avoid strenuous exercise during the first day or two at higher elevations.
- Medication: Consult with a healthcare professional before traveling and consider medication that can help prevent AMS in some cases.
- Recognize Symptoms: Be aware of the symptoms of altitude sickness and seek medical attention immediately if symptoms of HAPE or HACE develop.
- Descend if Necessary: If symptoms of severe altitude sickness develop and worsen, descend to a lower elevation promptly, as this is the most effective treatment.
- Oxygen: In severe cases or emergencies, supplemental oxygen can be administered to alleviate symptoms temporarily until descent is possible.
It’s important to note that altitude affects individuals differently, and there are no foolproof methods to completely prevent altitude-related issues. Even fit and healthy individuals can experience altitude sickness. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions or concerns, consult a healthcare professional before traveling to higher elevations.
Alcohol and Cannabis Consumption
- Alcohol: Due to the high altitude, avoid excessive alcohol intake. In the US, you must be 21 years or older to consume alcohol. To buy or order alcohol anywhere, you must carry a valid government ID. Servers and vendors legally cannot serve you alcohol if you do not provide proof of your age with a valid ID. Often the rules state that “if you look under 60, you’ll get carded (provide ID card)”.
- Cannabis: Due to the high altitude, avoid excessive cannabis intake. Cannabis is legal for recreational consumption in Colorado. You must be 21 years or older to consume cannabis. It can be purchased at stores called “dispensaries”. While it is legal in the state of Colorado, be advised that federally in the US, cannabis is not legal and can result in strict and lengthy legal repercussions. Under no circumstances should you transport cannabis or cannabis products (e.g., gummies, chocolate, edibles, lotions) out of the state (including via airplane, car, or on your body).
As of May 2023, travelers to the United States no longer need to show proof of being fully vaccinated. Please review the official CDC guideline for travel https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/diseases/covid19 and consult the official CDC health guidelines, advisory, and changes to the guidelines here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html