Last Updated on 7 July, 2021 by Veronica
Altitude sickness is our body’s response to the lack of oxygen levels that occur when you’re in places that are higher than 2500 meters above sea level.
It’s not really that there’s less oxygen at a higher altitude; what happens is that it lowers atmospheric pressure and the oxygen pressure in the air we breathe.
Recommendations to prevent altitude sickness
People who suffer the most symptoms are those who normally live below 1000 meters of altitude. The closer the sea level you live, the more likely you will be affected by altitude sickness.
But in this post, we want to tell you what the symptoms are and what interests you most, such as what steps you can take to prevent altitude sickness in your trips.
Who is affected by altitude sickness?
As I told you above, it usually affects people who normally live less than 1000 meters above sea level.
But the truth is that it affects different people in different ways. It also depends on how you get to your destination.
I mean, if you’re doing a high mountain route and you go up very fast, it will affect you differently if you are going to Cuzco (3399msnm) by bus from Lima (at sea level).
Also does not distinguish people’s physical condition. That is, even if you are in great shape, altitude sickness can affect you in the same way as a person who doesn’t sport.
What are the most common symptoms of altitude sickness?
Symptoms can begin to be felt from 2500 or 3000 meters of altitude. And one of the factors that highly influence its effects is the speed of ascent and the lack of acclimatization.
The most common symptoms are:
- Severe headache
- Physical fatigue or exhaustion
- Sleep disorder
- Nausea and vomiting
- Digestive disorders
- Lack of appetite
- Physical exhaustion
To avoid and prevent altitude sickness follow the following tips
If you’re thinking of traveling to a place that is more than 2500 meters’ in altitude, it is best to acclimatize to not suffer from altitude sickness.
To do this, you have to make the ascent gradually; you don’t have to agitate or make physical efforts, at least for the first few days. It’s best to walk slowly and stop to rest when necessary. It is also recommended to sleep well, eat light and avoid alcoholic beverages.
To prevent altitude sickness in South American countries, drinking coca tea and/or chew coca leaves is recommended.
The coca tea is quite good and is what the locals recommend; if you tell them you take pills for the “soroche,” they will look at you funny, hehehe.
Coca leaves are not literally chewed; what they do is stick them inside your cheek and let it take effect when mixed with saliva.
Being well hydrated and resting
If you get any of the symptoms of altitude sickness, it is best to rest and be well hydrated. Alcoholic beverages should be avoided.
For more severe symptoms, see your doctor and always carry travel insurance.
If you go to any city that is above 2000 meters above sea level, it is recommended that you take these precautions so as not to suffer the symptoms of altitude sickness.
For example, during the tour of the Salar de Uyuni, you will be above 3600 meters above sea level and sometimes above 5000; it is advisable to do this tour already being acclimatized to the altitude.
As it was my case that I had already been traveling in Peru and Bolivia from the north, and the altitude sickness did not affect me when I visited the Salar de Uyuni. Still, I did have a little discomfort on the third day of the tour of Uyuni when we exceeded 5000 meters above sea level.
If you have not been used to high altitudes before, it is better to take it easy, because in case you get bad of severe altitude sickness, you have to go back to an altitude where the altitude does not affect you and that can annoy you, especially on a trip like that of the Salar de Uyuni, to give an example.
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