HOW TO PREVENT ALTITUDE SICKNESS
Welcome to Cusco, Peru! It is located at 3,400 meters above sea level and it has some of the best high altitude hikes in South America. The lack of oxygen may cause you to feel altitude sickness symptoms. It’s not guaranteed that you will feel the symptoms however there are ways that can help prevent it from happening. Continue reading this article for tips on how to prevent altitude sickness, because nothing should keep you from visiting Cusco if you come to or live in South America!
Machu Picchu ruins
But first of all what is altitude sickness and what are the symptoms?
In Peru we also call it “soroche” and it is a condition caused by a rapid change in elevation without the necessary time for acclimatization. The symptoms start around 6 to 24 hours after arrival. These are:
• Diarrhea and constipation
• Difficulty breathing
• Heart racing, and others
Most of the tips we are giving are natural ways to prevent it. We are NOT doctors, that’s why we suggest to contact a doctor if you decide to take medicine to avoid feeling sick.
Relax and take it easy: It is the first day of your arrival, so please take it slow: Don’t expect to have long walks or plan any trekking. Our first tip of advice is that you take time to acclimate your body to the change in altitude. If you arrive in the morning, rest in your hotel or even take a nap. If you are craving to do something, take a short walk or do something that doesn’t additional physical effort. Your body is trying to get used to a lower amount of oxygen, so please let it adjust to it. The first days, plan calm activities that won’t over-demand your body. We recommend that you have a Kunigo Experience! You can book them for the morning or afternoon.
Take deep breaths: Again, your body is trying to get oxygen and in high altitudes that is more difficult. So take deep breaths to try to get more air in.
Hydrate yourself: It is hard to tell the different between altitude sickness and dehydration because high elevations tend to be very dry. Make sure you drink lots of water and stay properly hydrated.
Drink coca tea: One thing the locals do to avoid altitude sickness in Cusco is chewing coca leaves or sipping tea made from those leaves. You can find coca leaves everywhere, even hotels or airbnb’s offer fresh coca leaves to guests. It is completely safe to drink them and they ease altitude symptoms. But, do not abuse of them and drink more than 2-3 cups a day because coca is a mild stimulant.
Avoid alcohol: Alcohol enhances effects of altitude sickness, so hold off from trying our incredible pisco or pisco sour at least for the first couple of days!
Look out for your food: Avoid fatty food and salt excess (at least for the first days). You need energy to get rid of altitude sickness.
We suggest you follow a carb filled diet, due to the high energy provided by carbs they also help stabilize your blood sugar.
Bodega 138 – Cusco
Mapacho Craft Beer
Acclimate at a lower altitude, and ascend slowly: Last but not least, you should start at a lower elevation first. If you plan on visiting the whole country, consider starting your trip in Arequipa as it is located at a lower altitude. However, if your only plan is going to Cusco, and of course, visiting Machu Picchu, you can start by going to Aguas Calientes or the Sacred Valley first, and then to Cusco. That will allow you to acclimate gradually, and when you go back to Cusco your body will be more used to high altitude.
We hope you find these tips useful! However, if you feel you are going to need medication, then visit a doctor. Do not prescribe yourself with medicine that you don’t know!
And now tell us, did you have altitude sickness while in Cusco? Tell us your story in the comments!