Replies: 34 - Last Post: May 7, 2013 7:31 AM Last Post By: kizietizie
Jan 18, 2013 7:20 AM
Altitude sicknessHave searched all forums and the first six pages of the Peru site and can't find anything about altitude sickness. After a day or two in Lima I'll be flying to Cuzco for several days. I'm a bit concerned about altitude sickness. Right now I'm living in South Florida at an altitude of about 50 feet above sea level.
Please tell me what I need to know and what I need to do to avoid or manage altitude sickness.
Thanks a lot.
Jan 18, 2013 8:34 AM
1There's a lot of good information on the Himalaya Rescue Association web site. You might feel better if you head down the sacred valley for a couple of days before going to Cuzco.
Jan 18, 2013 8:37 AM
Jan 18, 2013 8:40 AM
3Vermonter, as long as you take it easy for the first two or three days in Cusco you should be fine. Altitude sickness does not seem to depend on age or level of physical fitness. Just do not rush off as soon as you get there. If you are not joining a trekking group and just staying in Cusco itself, then just take it easy, drink lots of non-alcoholic liquids.
Your first day in Cusco you should content yourself with a walk around the central square and the tourist area of the city, which is an amazingly rich city in terms of culture and stunning views. Maybe take a bus tour of Pisac and the Sacred Valley the second day. A classic technique for acclimatizing is to walk high and sleep low; on the third go up to the ruins above the city and get some great views and then come down to the lower altitude of Cusco.
If you want to see more of what Cusco and the surrounding area has to offer take a look at this post- http://wp.me/p25mXk-mP
In the post you will also find a link to a discussion thread related to altitude sickness (soroche to the Peruvians).
Cusco welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors each year so you won't be the first to deal with the effect of a higher altitude. Follow the conventional advice and you should do just fine.
Jan 18, 2013 8:43 AM
4The altitude of Cuzco is about 3400 m which for an average person doesn't cause serious problems. You may feel some discomfort, like mild headache or irregular sleep. What's common for everyone is feeling of tiredness and feeling of being short of breath, especially when climbing steps or steeper streets. The symptoms are usually away after a day or two when your body adjust to thinner air.
The best way to avoid altitude sickness is slow ascend (not possible when you fly in to Cuzco).
You may want to use diamox, which is available at pharmacies, if you find it hard to cope with the effects of high altitude.
Jan 18, 2013 9:41 AM
5Watch Anthony Bourdain on Youtube in Cusco--Constantly sucking down Oxygen.
We had no problems with Altitude sickness on three trips, but talked to others who had severe headaches. I did feel extremely tired for the first couple days but chewing coca leaves really helped. If chewing Coca leaves the little bits of lime or ashes you mix with the leaves really make a difference. They don't give it to you with the leaves and you have to ask for it.
My daughter went straight from Florida to Cusco on a College class trip and no one had any problems. If worried go to Ollantaytambo first to acclimate as it is much lower than Cusco.
Jan 18, 2013 2:25 PM
6My experience is that even with doing very little in Cusco when you arrive, you may still feel sick. Your best bet is to arrive in Cusco and immediately go to the Sacred Valley for a couple of days. In fact, the best way to do the trip is to fly to Cusco, go straight to the SV, then to Machu Picchu and then head back to Cusco. That way you'll be fully acclimated and should feel fine.
Jan 18, 2013 3:05 PM
7I am not a doctor and don't even play one one TV, but we started Diamox 2 days before arriving. We did not get altitutde sickness, but even after 2 weeks we were sucking wind walking back to our hotel overlooking Cusco. We were in pretty good shape for early 60's.
Jan 18, 2013 4:11 PM
Jan 19, 2013 9:53 AM
Jan 20, 2013 6:14 AM
10There is an age factor : on a average the 50+ group cope better with the altitude shift. Flying directly in to Cusco and like destinations comes with a high chance of AMS which for most people means different shades of hangover , including GI symptoms : anything from lack of appetite to vomiting. A few do worse , and the standard advice from specialist sources is to a) avoid sleeping higher than 2700 meters first night , and b ) if you still do it , start to medicate with Diamox 24 hours before flying in.
Good info above in the Himalayan Rescue Association link , other very good sources are the International Society for Mountain Medicine , the CDC advisory and WMS
Jan 20, 2013 7:23 AM
11For my first few days at altitude (entering Bolivia through Tupiza), I woke up with a headache which was easily fixed with taking some generic over the counter painkillers. Yes, you get tired if you exert yourself such as climbing stairs, running, or any other strenuous activity. One thing I did find was that I got tired reasonably early at night, around 8pm. As the air pressure is lower and oxygen is thinner, your body needs to work harder to pump the oxygen around your body, and hence, is worn out after working over time all day long. Like others have said, just ease into it. It's not as severe as you may think
Jan 21, 2013 12:34 AM
12I have had altitude sickness or at least severe symptoms of it like 5 - 6 times in over 20 years of visits to areas above 3.000 M mainly in Peru.
In August 2011 I was sick as a dog for five days after I had driven from Lima to Cusco along Puquio & Abancay, did the same road trip five months ago and nothing wrong.
I have never tried the Sorojchi Pills which are sold in any pharmacy in Cusco and have seen Oxyshot or so in the same pharmacies.
Jan 21, 2013 3:31 AM
13You can buy sorochi pills at home : it's aspirin (ASA ) with a dash of caffeine on top , worlds most common hangover treatment. Don't expect anything beyond a help with the headache. ASA interacts with Diamox and increases bleeding risk , a better choice is Ibuprofen or paracetamol/ acetaminophen.
Jan 21, 2013 3:33 AM
14You can buy sorochi pills at home : it's aspirin (ASA ) with a dash of caffeine on top , worlds most common hangover treatment. Don't expect anything beyond a help with the headache. ASA interacts with Diamox and increases bleeding risk , a better choice is Ibuprofen or paracetamol/ acetaminophen.
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