Altitude sickness, or soroche, is a serious thing. And we shouldn't take it as a joke. There are oxygen devices in some hotels in the Peruvian Andes and in many red cross posts scattered in the different places of interest where the altitude affects travelers. For this reason, in this post I tell you what altitude sickness is, what its symptoms are, how to avoid it and how to combat it.
No one is safe from altitude sickness, no matter how good our physical condition is. There are people who manifest it with small discomfort, while others have more serious consequences.
I'm not doctor! So I will tell you about my experience, and the tips that they gave us throughout the trip.
Listen to your body and treat it right. Suddenly you are going to have to “work” with less oxygen and you need to adapt. He also listens to the locals, they've been living that one there for years, so they know the symptoms and how to treat them better than anyone. Remember that you have nothing to prove. If you feel bad or have to rest, do it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with making a stop, we all need it!
WHAT IS ALTITUDE SICKNESS?
Altitude sickness or "soroche" is a discomfort caused that occurs between 2,400 meters above sea level and 7,500 meters.
As the pressure increases, oxygen in the blood decreases (this is called hypoxia) and symptoms begin to appear.
Altitude sickness is a temporary condition.
WHO CAN AFFECT ALTITUDE SICKNESS?
It is very difficult to predict if someone is going to suffer the ravages of altitude sickness or not, so it is better to be cautious and prevent.
Generally, it affects younger people more. It has nothing to do with your physical condition or weight. In fact, there are studies that ensure that young men in good shape are the ones who suffer the most from altitude sickness.
If you have any previous or chronic disease or condition, consult your doctor yes or yes.
SYMPTOMS OF ALTITUDE SICKNESS
The most common symptoms of altitude sickness are annoying and some can become painful.
Each person can suffer from altitude sickness in Peru in one way or another, or not at all, but the general symptoms are:
Tiredness and fatigue: Tiredness is one of the most widespread and recurring symptoms of altitude sickness in Peru. You will see that you get much more tired than normal, to the point of having to stop and sit down. Do it! When you arrive at the hotel at night you may notice that you are more exhausted than usual.
Mild to intense headache: It was the only symptom that I felt the most during the trip to the highest levels. I suffer from severe migraines from time to time and the first day in Cusco was the worst. Even so, my body got used to it and from here on throughout the trip I did not feel this discomfort again.
Feeling of lack of oxygen and/or a "runaway" heart, as it pumps faster than usual. You must sit down and breathe slowly!, without getting overwhelmed and that your breathing returns to normal.
Digestive disorders: They are one of the most unknown symptoms of altitude sickness in Peru... from tremendously slow digestion to loss of appetite. All this has an impact when it comes to going to the bathroom, because you can get diarrhea or constipation. In more serious cases, nausea may appear.
Dizziness of different intensity.
HOW TO AVOID ALTITUDE SICKNESS IN PERU
There is no magic recipe to avoid the symptoms of altitude sickness in Peru. Even so, there are some recommendations that you can follow and avoid it to a greater extent.
The first and main recommendation to avoid altitude sickness in Peru is to take it easy. Don't rush here and there to see everything in half a day, when you can do it in a full day. Organize your trip in such a way that you have rest intervals every day. (It is something that is very difficult for me, because they are very restless and I always want to be on the move) But you must do it! Calm!
Try to avoid visiting Puno after Lima, before seeing places like Cusco. It is better that your itinerary be mounted in such a way that you ascend little by little.
Hydrate! If you get dehydrated, the symptoms of altitude sickness will be stronger. Drink regularly, even if you don't feel like drinking. They recommend that you drink between 3 and 4 liters of water a day.
Rest! During the day go making stops and if you need to go back to the hotel take a nap, do it! Don't force yourself.
Stop for breath. Breathing deeply helps more oxygen enter your body. It's not a matter of obsessing, but being aware of your breaths will help you. And don't just stop when you feel like you can't take it anymore, you can do it regularly. A 5-minute stop to take some photos here, another stop for a coffee there…
Eat light: as I told you, digestions are slow, it is best to eat light and much more often. They recommend eating carbs like potatoes and pasta. Add fruits to eat between meals, it helps to regain strength.
Do not consume alcohol and tobacco: You should avoid alcohol during the first two days, as well as caffeinated soft drinks. Both can contribute to dehydration and increase symptoms. They are also not beneficial for sleep, digestion or headaches. Drink water and fruit juices, as natural as possible. Tobacco will increase the feeling of fatigue and will contribute to an increase in headache and dizziness.
In the Peruvian Andes the weather is quite changeable throughout the day, going from the heat of midday to the horrific cold at night. It is best to dress in layers and add or remove them as your body demands. Take a good mountain jacket, a sweater, hat and scarf, and get rid of them until you are left with a short-sleeved shirt and sunglasses.
Don't forget the sunscreen! At this altitude, if you burn, apart from having a hard time with the burn, your altitude sickness will increase.
HOW TO FIGHT ALTITUDE SICKNESS IN PERU
If after taking all the precautions you see that the symptoms you present do not allow you to lead a normal life, that you feel pain or that, in general, something is not going well, you are surely suffering from altitude sickness in Peru. And the best way to improve is to go down, don't keep going up. Rest, take a deep breath and go back.
Chewing coca leaf to avoid altitude sickness in Peru
The Andes have been using the coca leaf to combat altitude sickness in Peru for centuries, it is one of the greatest aids. You can get them in any market. If not, ask someone. Then all you have to do is roll them into a ball and stick them in the side of your mouth. Personally, I didn't like the sensation and the taste and I didn't try it anymore. As I had very mild symptoms I didn't need it, but you must try it!
They sell candies and coca infusions in any supermarket, and they have them in all restaurants and accommodations. In many of the excursions you do they will offer you. It is a good option and it does not give you the sensation of chewing grass.
Pills for altitude sickness
There are pills against altitude sickness. You can find them in any pharmacy, without the need for a prescription. They are called Sorojchi.
You must take them before ascending, but if you are in Cusco or Puno and you think you may need them, go to a pharmacy so they can recommend if they will work for you or not. Follow the instructions of the pharmacist and the leaflet to the letter.
If you have symptoms that do not go away, they are very painful, you have trouble breathing... go to the doctor.
Do not forget the important thing to have travel medical insurance. It is essential to travel to Peru!
Do not forget to take out travel medical insurance to travel to Peru! It is essential! Accidents happen, we get sick and any medical assistance, from altitude sickness to something more serious, will entail very high additional costs if we do not have insurance.
PLAN YOUR TRIP STEP BY STEP
I hope you enjoy your trip to Peru a lot and that this article has been useful to you. You can continue reading many more related articles on the blog.
If you liked this article, subscribe to the blog so you don't miss out on upcoming destinations, curiosities, travel tips and inspiration for your trips.
A hug and see you soon!