Altitude sickness won’t only slow down your trip, but can also be a potential killer. Find out about the symptoms, treatment and prevention of this medical condition.

What is Altitude Sickness?

Altitude Sickness occurs when your body cannot receive enough oxygen from the air at high altitudes. As altitude increases, the air becomes thinner and the level of oxygen your body is used to receiving decreases.

It doesn’t happen to everyone, but to the unlucky few that it does, it can be annoying. In Perú most cities in the Andes like Huaraz are considered high altitude and the oxygen levels drop by around 5-6 percent, which can cause the onset of altitude sickness.

Symptoms of altitude Sickness & How will it affect me?

It’s uncertain if you will be affected by altitude sickness, as it affects people in different ways. Some people are nota ll affected, others have slight symptoms with very few becoming ill. Always seek medical advice if you have any medical conditions that may affect you at high altitude.

On arrival at high altitude the majority of people fin that they will suffer from shortness of breath, a mild headache and tiredness for which the best cure is to rest and drink plenty of fluids. These simptoms typically last for no more than 24-48 hours, and are quite normal for someone arriving at high altitude.

Stronger simptoms include a throbbing headache, a lack of appetite, feeling nauseous, vomiting, dizzinness and not sleeping.

Taking oxygen will rapidly help anybody with altitude sickeness; however there is only one real cure and that is to return to a lower altitude as quickly as posible. Always seek medical advice if you are suffering from severe altitude sickness.

How to Minimize the Effects of Altitude Sickness

The best way to minimize the effects is to gradually ascend, traveling with bus and not flying directly.

This way the body will slowly start getting used to the higher elevation. It is also very important to rest when you first arrive at high altitude, Drink plenty of fluids, eat lightly a do not drink alcohol. If you are planning on hiking in Perú then it is recommended that you take 3 days max. To acclimatize before you start hiking. You may feel perfectly fine after one day but often altitude sickeness can come on rapidly if you start to exert your body on a trek.

Coca tea - for altitude-sickness
Coca tea – for altitude-sickness

Most Peru treks like the famous Cordillera huayhuash, Cordillera Blanca will increase in altitude as you hike through mountains passes, so it is vitally important to be fully acclimatized before you start any treks.