Environmental Considerations - Acclimatization to High Altitudes
Elevations below 5,000 feet have little noticeable effect on healthy people. However, at higher elevations the atmospheric pressure is reduced, and the body tissues get less oxygen. This means that soldiers cannot work or exercise as well at high altitudes. The limiting effects of high elevation are often most pronounced in older soldiers and persons with low levels of fitness.
Due to acclimatization, the longer a soldier remains at high altitude, the better his performance becomes. Generally, however, he will not perform as well as at sea level and should not be expected to. For normal activities, the time required to acclimatize depends largely on the altitude. In order to insure that soldiers who are newly assigned to altitudes above 5,000 feet are not at a disadvantage, it is recommended that 30 days of acclimatization, including regular physical activity, be permitted before they are administered a record APFT.
Before acclimatization is complete, people at high altitudes may suffer acute mountain sickness. This includes such symptoms as headache, rapid pulse, nausea, loss of appetite, and an inability to sleep. The primary treatment is further acclimatization or returning to a lower altitude.
Once soldiers are acclimatized to altitudes above 5,000 feet, deacclimatization will occur if they spend 14 or more days at lower altitudes. For this reason, soldiers should be permitted twice the length of their absence, not to exceed 30 days, to reacclimatize before being required to take a record APFT. A period of 30 days is adequate for any given reacclimatization.