Those with pre-existing medical conditions should avoid riding chairlifts or skiing/boarding on their own. Always be vigilant with precautions and symptoms. It is vital to keep taking your medication as prescribed while you are away.

Asthma

Anyone with asthma should be able to venture onto the slopes safely, by taking a few precautions. Even people whose asthma is triggered by cold conditions should be able to cope at high altitudes as long as the asthma is well controlled.

It is a good idea to have a written management plan, knowing what you need both for prevention and relief of your asthma, and what to do for deteriorating asthma.

Stock up on all the medication you will require, as well as some extra. A letter from your doctor outlining the history and severity of your asthma and treatment would be helpful if medical attention becomes necessary.

In freezing conditions, pressurised inhalers may not work properly. They should be warmed (in the hands, for example) before use. It is important to remember to keep taking your medication as directed while you are away.

Talk to your doctor and/or contact the Asthma Australia information line on 1800 278 462 as part of your preparation for taking on recreational alpine activities.

Heart problems

There is no reason why people with heart conditions can’t partake in recreational alpine activities, as long as the right precautionary measures are taken.

The risk for people with heart conditions depends on the level of exercise they will be doing. It is essential that someone with a heart problem planning on vigorous exercise takes an exercise stress test with their doctor before they go. This test can then be reviewed by a cardiologist who can help create a management plan for the prevention of any problems.

While at the snow, it is important to keep monitoring yourself and at the first warning signs and pains in the chest, to stop what you are doing. It is vital to keep taking medication as prescribed. It is not advisable for someone with a heart condition to drink excessive amounts of alcohol in the cold.

For more information on hitting the slopes with a heart condition, talk to your doctor and/or contact the Heart Foundation information line on 1300 36 27 87.

Diabetes

Alpine sports of all types can be safely undertaken by people with diabetes. The major potential problem is related to low blood glucose levels (hypoglycaemia) resulting from the increased and often sustained level of activity.

Discuss the proposed activities with your doctor and develop a new dose schedule for your medication. This will usually involve a substantial reduction in insulin or tablet doses whilst you are engaging in alpine sports.

Ski/board with a friend who is aware of your diabetes and knows how to recognise and treat hypoglycaemia. Always have some simple carbohydrates readily accessible. Jelly beans or soft jubes are ideal in the snow.

If you do become hypoglycaemic, have some simple carbohydrates immediately – don’t wait! Follow this up with a long-lasting carbohydrate such as a milk drink, fruit or sandwiches as soon as possible. Don’t resume your activity until then.

Hypoglycaemia can occur soon after commencing exercise or many hours after the activity has ceased. Take special care to avoid overnight hypoglycaemia by intensifying your blood glucose monitoring, eating a substantial supper and probably reducing your overnight insulin.

Talk to your doctor and/or contact the Diabetes Australia information line on 1300 136 588 as part of your preparation for taking part in recreational alpine activities.

Prevent emergency situations

Emergencies are often the result of poor planning and/or foolhardy behaviour. If you do find yourself in difficulties, stop and think.

Knowledge of your own capabilities is an important safety factor. Individual skills and fitness levels vary greatly. What is quite safe for one person to attempt may be foolhardy for someone else.

Know your capabilities and keep well within them at all times.

For ambulance, police and fire emergencies, call ‘000’ or contact your local ski patrol.

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