When you start researching Peru and its destinations, many blogs warn of something that can terrify tourists: altitude sickness. Although it is true that it can affect anyone regardless of gender, physical condition or age, there are ways to avoid it.
Are you worried about altitude sickness in Peru? You are asking how to avoid altitude sickness in Perú? Well, stay here, let’s try to shed a little light!
Altitude sickness, or soroche, is a serious thing. The fact that there are oxygen devices in some hotels in the Peruvian Andes should give us a clue… Therefore, in this post we want to tell you what altitude sickness is, what its symptoms are, how to avoid it and, if necessary, combat it.
Nobody is safe from altitude sickness in Peru and, although you may not even realize it or just have some discomfort, it does not hurt that you go prepared. You come?
What is altitude sickness?
Altitude sickness or «soroche» is a discomfort caused that occurs between 2,400 meters above sea level and 7,500 (from there, it is already a «death zone»).
As the pressure increases, the oxygen in the blood decreases (this is called hypoxia) and symptoms begin to occur.
Altitude sickness is a temporary condition. Come on, as soon as you go down you miss it.
At what height are Cusco and Machu Picchu located?
Being located in the middle of the mountains, you may think that Machu Picchu is located higher than Cusco, but it is not! The Imperial City is 3,399 meters above sea level, while Machu Picchu is 2,430 meters above sea level, almost 1000 meters apart!
If you visit the city of Cusco another impressive destinations that you can visit are the tour to rainbow mountain peru or the humantay lake tour from cusco, which only takes one day. But if you are gonna to stay more days in Cusco, other archaeological places you can know will be the choquequirao trek peru, the salkantay trek to machu picchu, and the classic inca trail 4 days 3 nights.
What causes altitude sickness or soroche?
In cities or higher places, the oxygen level is getting lower and lower. As our brain needs oxygen and is used to receiving more in the areas in which we live, which are usually lower, when we reach higher places the body notices this lack.
According to experts, altitude sickness or soroche can begin to affect from 2,400 meters above sea level, but that does not mean that every time you visit a place with this height or higher, your body will feel affected.
Who can be affected by altitude sickness in Peru?
It is very difficult to predict if someone will suffer the ravages of altitude sickness or not, so… better to be safe than sorry!
In principle, it affects younger people more, and physical shape and weight have nothing to do with it … in fact, there are studies that ensure that young men in good shape suffer the most.
We are young, with normal physical shape and we are not used, at all, to the altitude. Even so, we do not suffer from any serious or disabling symptoms, beyond typical fatigue and digestive problems (which are solved with patience). We know many people, of all ages and physical conditions, who have gone to Peru. Whoever didn’t have a headache got dizzy, another’s stomach went crazy … and practically all of us felt weaker and more tired. This is all normal. The truth is that no one had really serious problems. Still, no trusting!
If you have any previous or chronic disease or condition, consult your doctor yes or yes. Don’t put yourself at risk «just» for a trip.
Symptoms of altitude sickness in Peru
The most common symptoms of altitude sickness are bothersome, and some can be painful. Even so, they are not usually totally disabling or pose a risk to one’s life. Keep calm!
Every 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 recurrent 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. If you have to, go ahead. Climbing the slopes of Cuzco or the stairs of some archaeological sites in the Sacred Valley would be tiresome plans anywhere, but at about 3,000 meters it is normal that they leave you K.O.
- Feeling of lack of oxygen and / or heart «racing», since it pumps faster than usual. Do not panic! Just sit back and breathe.
- Mild to intense headache: I admit that this point was very scary, because I have horrible migraines. In the end, I didn’t have any headaches, although many people around me did.
- Digestive disorders: They are one of the most unknown symptoms of altitude sickness in Peru … and the ones that we suffer the most! Anything can happen to you: from extremely slow digestion, in which you have breakfast in your mouth until mid-afternoon (that was me) to loss of appetite. All this affects when going to the bathroom, because you can suffer from diarrhea or constipation. In more severe cases, nausea and
- Sleep changes: Both insomnia and drowsiness are in the hype. Take the first few days calmly, especially if you tend to suffer from jet lag … because, if they get together, it will be a nightmare!
- Dizziness of different intensity.
How to avoid altitude sickness in Perú?
- Stay calm – Your body is trying to get used to the lesser amount of oxygen so it is of utmost importance that you take it easy the first few days you are in Cusco.
- Take a deep breath – Once again your body is trying to get the necessary oxygen. To give your lungs enough oxygen, stop and breathe deeply from time to time.
- Avoid alcohol – Some studies suggest that the effects of alcohol are greater in high altitude locations. Also, alcohol can exacerbate the effects of altitude sickness. Stay away from pisco, at least the first few days in Cusco.
- Drink lots of water – Altitude sickness can cause a dry throat, leading to thirst. In addition, drinking water calms rapid breathing and alleviates the sensation of oxygen deprivation caused by altitude sickness.
- Acclimatize to Cusco – The city of Cusco is almost a thousand meters (3,280 ft) away. above Machu Picchu. If the tourist adapts satisfactorily to the city of Cusco, it is sure that he will not have any problem to visit Machu Picchu.
- Sorojchi Pills – One of the medications recommended to alleviate the symptoms of altitude sickness are the so-called ‘Sorojchi pills’. You can find them in any pharmacy in Cusco without a prescription.
- Bring drops of chlorophyll – This natural remedy increases the number of red blood cells in the blood. Therefore, there is more chance for oxygen to be absorbed into the blood. It can be found in any naturist store in Cusco.
- Altitude Sickness Tea – The altitude sickness tea has been used since before the time of the Incas as a remedy for different ailments. Currently, the altitude sickness tea is widely used in Cusco to combat the symptoms of altitude sickness.
Plants for altitude sickness
The Incas were our main exponents of natural medicine in our geographical area.
The use of these plants enables a quick and viable solution, without the use of drugs, to be able to counteract the symptoms of mountain altitude sickness.
Among them we have:
- Coca leaf: Erythroxylon coca, used mainly through infusions. It is a stimulant, analgesic, digestive, regulator of blood pressure.
- Muña: Minthostachys setosa, can be used in infusions. It has a medicinal use to treat headache, gastritis, mountain sickness. Its antiseptic, analgesic and carminative capacity was proven. After the coca leaf, it is a traditional botanical species in the medicine of the Inca culture.
- Capulí: Prunus capulí Cav. Being a tree 20 meters high, it has three forms of application, the fruit is used as a cleanser, the leaves as a heart rate regulator and for altitude sickness and the bark of the tree as an anti-rheumatic.
- Mint: Mentha piperita, the biochemical composition mainly presents eugenol and rosmarinic acid, which are anticoagulants. These can improve circulation but in minimal doses in the case of people with diabetes. Its use, like the plants described above, is based on infusions.
- Chachacoma: Senecio nutans, high Andean plant that has a geographical distribution that covers the Peruvian Andes to the country of Argentina. It is a bush 20 to 50 cm high, branchy and covered with leaves up to the apex. According to various studies carried out in Chile, Argentina and Bolivia, the use of this plant in infusions is mainly used for mountain altitude sickness.