Height sickness: what it is, symptoms and recommendations

Height sickness: what it is, symptoms and recommendations

Many destinations in Peru will take travelers to high altitude terrain. Sites in which you will find beautiful landscapes, archaeological remains, exquisite cuisine, the sympathy of its people but where, also, you can suffer from altitude sickness .



What is altitude sickness?

Altitude sickness, also known as mountain acute sickness (MAM), mountain sickness, yeyo, soroche or apunamiento, is the body’s reaction to the lack of adaptation to hypoxia , that is, lack of oxygen.

This happens because at higher altitudes, lower oxygen pressure. Then, as you ascend, there is a progressive decrease in atmospheric pressure and, consequently, also in oxygen. Less is inspired of this one and it is there where the hypoxia takes place.

For this reason, symptoms can appear at 2500 meters above sea level and the higher, faster and more will be felt.

What are the symptoms

Some people have the luck to adapt without problem to the heights but, others, they begin to feel different signs of mountain sickness. Thus, among them may appear the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache (intense headache).
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Physical exhaustion.
  • Sleep disorders, which may manifest as drowsiness or insomnia, in addition to the possibility of suffering episodes of sudden nocturnal dyspnea, that means abruptly wake up with a feeling of suffocation.
  • Fatigue or physical exhaustion
  • Digestive disorders
  • Agitation
  • Lack of appetite

On the other hand, the most serious cases can cause Altitude Pulmonary Edema and Altitude Cerebral Edema.

Advice to fight it

If you have the possibility, it will be a good idea to carry out an acclimatization . How? Performing a gradual ascent from 2000 meters above sea level. This is an ideal advice for those who walk or climb. Another way is to rest once you reach your destination, do not make efforts for at least 24 hours .

  • Other recommendations are:
  • Sleep well
  • Eat light, choose fruits and carbohydrates
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages, tobacco and tranquilizers
  • Drink much liquid
  • Wrap

In this way, it is not strange to listen to locals and experts to give the following recommendation: “drink before you are thirsty, eat before you are hungry, warm yourself before you are cold and rest before exhaustion” . And if they say it, we will have to pay attention …


But if the altitude sickness was already present in the traveler and the symptoms begin to bother, we will have to take the necessary measures to counteract them and be able to start enjoying the stay at the destination.

In case of mild symptoms, rest for 24 or 48 hours is the ideal way, provided that it is accompanied by permanent hydration and a hyperglucose diet. Of course, many times, you can not lose 24 or 48 hours during a trip, which is why you have to resort to another treatment or method.

One of the options is to drink mate or coca tea , something that is offered in all hotels or excursions. It is done by placing the coca leaves in a cup of boiling water or you can buy the bags in supermarkets like any other variety of tea. Its flavor is soft and it is drunk without problem, although when the symptoms are too strong it probably will not help either.

As for coca, another way to consume it is by placing the leaves in the mouth and swallowing its bitter juice, or by consuming candies made from this vegetable.

Meanwhile, in the absence of oxygen a quick option is to put on oxygen masks . Most of the hotels have this option to offer their guests, the organizers of the excursions take tubes to attend to their passengers and even travelers can be seen carrying their own tube.

But, without a doubt, the fastest option and that can even be used before you begin to feel the symptoms to avoid discomfort, is the pill . It is over-the-counter and it is enough to go to a pharmacy and ask for it. It is taken every eight hours and ensures a stay without discomfort related to altitude sickness. There are a couple of brands but if you want to opt for them, it will be better to study what each one has and to consult the doctor beforehand. They usually carry Acetylsalicylic Acid, Salophene and Caffeine.

Who should not be exposed at high altitude and who should be very careful

Those who should not travel to high altitude sites are:

  • People with chronic heart and / or lung diseases
  • People with anemia
  • People with blood coagulation disorders without treatment and those with a history of thrombosis
  • People who have had cerebral edema caused by height and pulmonary edema caused by the same.

Meanwhile, those who must be very careful are:

  • People with heart and / or lung diseases treated and in good general condition.
  • Pregnant women
  • Children
  • People with high blood pressure
  • People with a tendency to sleep apnea.

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