Quick Steps to Combat Altitude Sickness While Traveling in Peru

23 Apr
Viajando en Perú
Thursday April 23, 2015 - Posted by to Adventure Travel, Cusco

Quick Steps to Combat Altitude Sickness While Traveling in Peru

Need quick steps to combat the altitude sickness while traveling in Peru? Continue to read this blog because here you can find what you need. When traveling in Peru you will visit places such as Cusco, Huaraz, and Puno, all above 3000 meters above sea level.

Most certainly upon arrival, you will feel some of the effects of altitude. The symptoms of altitude sickness or “soroche”, as it is called in Peru, can include, shortness of breath, headache, nausea and problems sleeping. Most travelers have few problems adjusting, many only feeling a shortness of breath when climbing the many hills and stairs as there are in for instance the stunning city of Cusco. Others will take longer to acclimatize and may suffer more from the symptoms. Follow those quick steps to combat altitude sickness in Peru.

Trekking in Peru
If you have planned to do trek in the Cusco area, as for instance the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, or the Salkantay trek, we recommend you always arrive a few days prior to the starting date of the trek.

Altitude sickness can strike even the fittest, healthiest traveler and not evey one realises this. No reason to panic, however. For most people the altitude sickness will feel very similar as ‘a bad hangover’ (according to the website altitude.org).
The main problem is that in the Peruvian Antes, the air is thin and dry. Because of the thinness you will take shorter and faster breaths, and because of the dryness you will become dehydrated. This is because, with each breath you exhale you lose more water than you will gain with the next breath. It is the dehydration that can cause the headaches.



trekking-in- cusco-peru


If you feel the altitude taking its toll you should rest for at least one or two days. Avoid physical exercise, and remember to take it slow when walking around the city, especially on the stairs. At least at first, you need to avoid alcohol, smoking and should not use medicine such as sleeping pills as they can make the symptoms of altitude sickness worse.  Another things to remember is that the risk of sunburn and sunstroke is greatly increased at higher altitudes. You should remember to wear sun cream and protect your eyes, even if it is hazy the sun can be very damaging.


Planning your tripñ before arrival
As much as possible you should take care in planning your trip to Peru. Some recommend to not fly directly into a high altitude and instead giving yourself time to acclimatize by spending time ascending slowly, although this is not always possible. If you fly directly into Cusco (from Lima), you will most likely be fine, but it’s important to take it easy the first days and to follow the other tips mentioned above. Pack medicine to help with headache (Paracetamol, Ibuprofen or Dexamethasone) and for nausea (Dimenhydrinate or Metoclopramide). There is also a pill, Diamox, against altitude sickness which combines different components known to help alleviate symptoms.


During the journey: in Peru
If you are taking a journey to a higher altitude, like for instance if you travel overland from Lima to Cusco, you should avoid eating heavy foods like meat. Instead foods such as fruit, bread, cereal, and local grains like quinoa are recommended. As before you should avoid smoking and drinking alcohol. Drink a lot of water, around 4-5 liters a day.  is very important. You can also try Mata de coca, an infusion made with natural coca leaves, is used by Peruvians and tourists alike. It also helps with digestion.




If you are suffering from altitude sickness
To help with the symptoms of altitude sickness, rest is important. Elevate your head about 30 degrees from the bed to help with the headache and nausea. You also need to keep drinking plenty of liquids, still water or coca tea are the best. If your symptoms are moderate to severe you should go to a local health center where they can supply oxygen.
Do you have more tips? What did you experience when arriving at the altitude? What worked best for you to combat ‘soroche’?

We invite you to post your comments below as they will be very useful for travelers in Peru.



3 thoughts on “Quick Steps to Combat Altitude Sickness While Traveling in Peru

  1. Pingback: The Ultimate 5 day Cusco Itinerary | Dos Manos Peru

  2. Pingback: 6 Practical Tips for Surviving Salkantay Trek in Peru | Dos Manos Peru

  3. Pingback: About Tasty Fresh Peruvian Fruit Juices

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