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Altitude Sickness

09 April 2019

Altitude sickness, soroche or acute mountain sickness is a disorder that responds to the lack of adaptation of the organism to the lack of oxygen by altitude. It usually occurs when you climb to a great height in a non-progressive or fast way. It usually occurs from 2,400 meters and affects, above all, people who are not used to living in areas with high altitude, usually below 900 meters above sea level. If you are going to travel to mountainous countries such as Peru and you are going to visit corners of these located at high altitude, such as the Machu Picchu, you should take into account the altitude sickness, how to prevent it and fight it and what kind of symptoms are those that usually present. Let's go Inca Trail tour operator will show you everything about altitude sickness.

 

What is altitude sickness?


Hypoxia is the name that receives the lack of oxygen in the human body and is the main cause of altitude sickness or soroche. Since the atmospheric pressure decreases as there is more height and there is less oxygen and nitrogen, the alveoli of the lungs can not transport so much oxygen to the blood, which can produce dehydration and discomfort.

There are people who are more susceptible than others and there are also factors such as physical activity, the speed of the ascent or the initial height from which it starts. Therefore, whenwe are talking about altitude sickness, it is very important to know what symptoms we can feel, how to prevent it and how to fight it.

 

What are the altitude sickness symptoms?


In most cases, the symptoms of altitude sickness are temporary and are reduced as the person acclimates to altitude. In general, the altitude sickness symptoms usually appear when we climb from a low altitude to places above 2,000 meters above sea level in a sudden manner. In addition, those people who are accustomed to living below 900 meters, usually notice symptoms a few hours after reaching corners with high altitude, especially at night.

In general, the altitude sickness symptoms are:

  • Dizziness or vomiting
  • Weakness or tiredness
  • Headache
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nervousness
  • Sleep disorders: drowsiness, insomnia or episodes of sudden nocturnal dyspnea, that is, wake up abruptly with a feeling of suffocation.

How can altitude sickness affect you on your trip to Machu Picchu?


If you were born in places close to sea level and lived there all your life, you will be an ideal candidate for altitude sickness (although, again, you can never really predict it). It is possible, if it is your first time in Cusco, that you feel headaches, nausea or discomfort. They are some of the symptoms of altitude sickness and then we will tell you how to avoid them. For the second time, remember that altitude sickness is not something that should be taken lightly. In all cases, to people who did not pay enough attention this can complicate its trip. We think that you will not like to spend your incredible vacation to one of the wonders of the world, in a hospital,so...

 

What can I do to avoid altitude sickness?

  • Take it easy. This is truly the best advice and the most ignored to avoid altitude sickness. Remember that your body is trying to get used to the least amount of oxygen; so it is very important that you take it easy during the first days you are in Cusco. Do not take long walks. Do not strain your body further, you are working extra time to oxygenate the blood.
  • Breath deeply. Again, your body is trying to get the necessary oxygen, but there is less of it available in each breath. So take a deep breath to try to get more air.
  • Avoid alcohol. The reasons for this are debated, but some studies show that the effects of alcohol are greater at high altitudes (that is, it will get drunk more easily). In addition, alcohol can exacerbate the effects of altitude sickness. Stay away from pisco, at least the first days in Cusco.
  • Drink a lot of water. This does not relieve altitude sickness exactly, but sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between altitude sickness and dehydration, and high elevations tend to be very dry, which means you need more water to hydrate your body.
  • Climb to a lower altitude and ascend slowly. This advice may be difficult to follow, since it means changing your travel plans. Many people recommend that after getting off the plane, take a taxi or bus to the Sacred Valley, one hour from Cusco, where the elevation is about 600 m. (2,000 feet) below. This allows you to acclimatize at a lower altitude, and then move back to Cusco, when your body is more accustomed to high altitude. The other option is to take a 21-hour bus ride from Lima to Cusco. Some people think that the bus Lima-Cusco is a better option, because it allows you to ascend slowly in the course of 21 hours; and although this is likely to allow a gradual acclimatization, the route is full of curves and mountains, and it is very likely that you will end up sick, if you are prone to motion sickness.
  • Take Diamox. In the US, Diamox is a medication used to treat glaucoma; however, it can also treat altitude sickness. It is necessary to take it 24 hours before arriving in Cusco, however, a side effect of the drug is that you probably have to urinate more often. It is not very practical when you are traveling. Another medicine recommended for altitude sickness and that can be found in any pharmacy in Cusco is Sorochi Pills (you can get them without a prescription).
  • Take chlorophyll drops. (Yes, chlorophyll as in the green matter of plants). You may not have heard of this treatment before reading this; It is a natural remedy, you put a few drops in the water every day and you may never suffer any altitude sickness symptom. The effect behind this treatment is that chlorophyll increases the amount of red blood cells in your system, so there is more opportunity for oxygen to be absorbed by the blood. It is possible that this treatment will put green teeth but not bad at all
  • If you like natural remedies, drink coca leaves tea. (infusions of coca leaves). It is found everywhere in Cusco. Let's clarify something; Yes, coca is the plant from which cocaine is made; however, coca leaves alone are not enough to feel anything like the illegal drug; so yes, it is totally safe to drink coca tea. However, do not drink more than four or five cups in a row, or you may suffer from heart palpitations; however, it is one of the best natural remedies against altitude sickness, and it has been used since the time of the Incas.

Now you know more about altitude sickness is time to start planning your dream trip with Let's go Inca Trail!!!

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We organize tours for small groups, including families, friends, students and volunteers. Our tour leaders speak English, Spanish & Quechua (Andean Language) and will dedicate themselves to giving you the best independent tours in Cusco as well as Machu Picchu.

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