How to Avoid Altitude Sickness in Peru

If you are planning a trip to Peru, it is important to incorporate an awareness of altitude sickness, its prevention, and medication since the country has irresistible scenic highlands which can be a part of your itinerary.

High altitude sickness, also called soroche (also sorojchi) in Peru, is typically experienced at a height beyond 8,000 feet (2,400 meters) above sea level. At this level, the air is thin and dry which will cause you to breathe at short interval. Anybody can fall victim to altitude sickness so even the fitness guru can experience this.

Familiarize yourself with the mild symptoms associated with altitude sickness, such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, lethargy, diarrhea, constipation, difficulty breathing, and increased heart rate.

The worst symptoms of altitude sickness that are warning signs of an emergency could be worsening any of the mild conditions, whooping cough, coughing out pink or white frothy liquid, clumsiness and difficulty walking, double vision, irrational behavior, convulsions, confusion, and a bubbling sound in the chest.

These severe symptoms can be debilitating or even life-threatening complications of high altitude sickness called cerebral oedema or pulmonary oedema.

Having these symptoms in mind should alert you to take proper precautionary measures on how to prevent altitude sickness from happening. Here are some things you can do to avoid suffering from altitude sickness.

Bring your medicine kit with you.
Bring your medicine kit with you.

Bring your portable medicine kits

Visiting the doctor before your trip to Peru to ask for altitude sickness medicine is highly advisable. Your doctor will prescribe Diamox as this is the drug for its prevention, so ensure that you have this handy. A non-prescription drug for altitude sickness is Ibuprofen which can also be taken for altitude-induced headaches.

Include bottles of chlorophyll drops in your medicine kit as well, which you can add to your water for a more conventional treatment. Add an oxishot tube that still has oxygen in it for extreme emergency needs though it’s still best to use the actual oxygen tank. You can also bring a finger pulse oximeters which you can use to monitor your blood oxygen level and heart rate.

Take as much rest as you can before the trip

Sleeping and resting for a good two days before your flight is one way of avoiding altitude sickness. This will equip your body with energy and resistance that you need the most, especially during a sudden altitude, climate, and environment change.

Avoid drinking any alcoholic beverage as well before the trip and at least a minimum of 48 hours after your arrival as alcohol can dehydrate you and increase your risk for altitude sickness.

Eat healthy.
Eat healthy.

Hydrate and replenish

Instead of gulping down any booze, hydrate yourself with plenty of water. Do this within the 72-hour window prior to your trip. Continue drinking water throughout the duration of your trip. Try to refrain from drinking coffee as well, so as not to deplete your body from water as coffee is a diuretic.

Consume potassium-laden foods which are a great aid for your acclimation plans. Keep a stock of bananas, avocado, tomatoes, celery, bran, chocolate, granola bars, dried dates, broccoli and potatoes. You can also consume complex carbohydrates to have a consistent supply of energy, and at the same time, stabilize your blood sugar. This includes quinoa, grains, pasta, fruits, and vegetables.

Remember the golden rule in the mountaineering world: Climb high, sleep low

Mountaineers are connoisseurs of high altitude trips so they are the best resource for advice when it comes to prevention of altitude sickness. The general rule is to start at a high altitude place then travel to a low altitude destination. Along the way, you’d be passing by ascending roads which are higher than where you started. By doing so, you’d be traveling high then will be sleeping in lower altitude.

You can find coca leaves in Peru. ©Aleah Taboclaon

Go for traditional remedies and preventive measures

Heed the advice of Peruvians when it comes to altitude sickness prevention and even cure. You can drink the flavorful coca tea or you can simply chew the leaves to get its minty taste. Limit your intake to just 3 cups a day so as not to have any heart palpitations.

Ascend gradually

Try to acclimate and plan your trip by starting from a low altitude place then ascending slowly so your body can adapt to altitude changes. If you are going to Machu Picchu, for example, go to Sacred Valley first, which is at 9,000 feet (2,743 meters), then stay for one night. Afterwards, go to Cusco, which is at 11,500 feet (3,505 meters), before you visit Machu Picchu which is only at 8,000 feet (2,438 meters).

The Sacred Valley has many must-see sights as well. ©McKay Savage
The Sacred Valley has many must-see sights as well. ©McKay Savage

Ask for medical assistance

In cases when the symptoms are getting serious and complicated, look for the nearest hospital and get professional medical help.

You don’t want to ruin your trip and somebody else’s with an altitude sickness. Prevention is still far better than looking for a cure. Hopefully, with these tips, your Peru trip will be everything you’ve ever dreamed of!

About Author

Aleah Taboclaon is a solo traveler and freelance editor and writer. She's backpacking solo in South America for two years. Read her solo travel tales and tips in and follow her trips on Instagram (aleahphils).


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