Peru is a fantastic country. It has an unprecedented variety of fauna and flora. There is an impressive wonder of the world and the country is brimming with culture. However, there is also an unpleasant part to visiting this country. Or at least for many. We experienced it ourselves during our trip through Peru. Altitude sickness can occur in high cities like Cusco and you are better prepared for that. Here you can read what you can do against altitude sickness in Peru.

Altitude sickness in Peru

What is altitude sickness?

Altitude sickness is a phenomenon that can occur when you are at an altitude of 2500 meters. With altitude sickness, your body can’t get used to the thin air quickly enough, so to the reduction of oxygen in the air. The body needs to produce extra red blood cells at altitude to adapt, but that can take several days or weeks. Suddenly going from low to high area can therefore disturb the body firmly. It affects many people and there is no indication that healthy, fit people would suffer less than others. Everyone’s susceptible. A human can go up to 9000 meters altitude to stay alive without oxygen. But already between 6000 and 8000 meters altitude you can stay for a maximum of a few days. Altitude sickness starts at 2500 meters altitude and increases as you rise higher.

What are the complaints?

The complaints can be different for everyone. From moderate to severe. Mild symptoms include headache, dizziness, insomnia and irregular breathing. Bryan was particularly affected by this during our trip in Peru. But you can also develop severe symptoms such as severe headaches that do not pass with painkillers, loss of concentration and memory, drowsiness, rapid heartbeat, indifferent behavior, double vision, paralysis symptoms and so on. Sigrid was more troubled by that. Because serious symptoms sometimes do not seem to pass, it is recommended to consult a doctor. That’s what we did. Sigrid was given oxygen and then things got much better. This doesn’t cost much either (around 70 euros for an hour and a half of oxygen) and your health insurance will get in the way. So don’t hesitate to go to a doctor or the hospital if your symptoms persist. In rare cases, altitude sickness can lead to death if one does not allow one’s timely help.

Sigrid streets Cusco South America
Dream destination Machu Picchu
altitude sickness in peru

Where do you get altitude sickness in peru?

As mentioned earlier, you can get altitude sickness from a height of 2500 meters. In the Alps you can also experience this phenomenon. In countries like Chile and peru you get this phenomenon quickly when you head towards the mountains. In Lima in Peru you will not experience this. Lima is at sea level. But if you go to Cusco to visit Machu Picchu, for example, you will have to take this into account. Even if you want to visit Rainbow Mountain, Lake Titicaca or other mountains, your risk of altitude sickness will increase.

What to do about altitude sickness in peru?

In case of mild complaints

It is recommended to gradually increase in height. So don’t go from zero to 3,000 meters, like we did. Instead of the plane, you can take the bus or car to gradually ascend, giving your body time to adapt to the new altitude step by step. Drinking coca tea on the spot can help. This tea is made from coca leaves but have absolutely no hallucinatory side effects. The locals drink this daily and you can find this tea everywhere in Peru. What also helps is to drink Genorade, the local red Aquarius. Here are ingredients in which to combat nausea and headaches. At the pharmacist they also sell medication for altitude sickness that you can get without a prescription. You can always go there. Taking medication for altitude sickness in advance, before departure, is also an option that keeps the symptoms under control for many.

In case of serious complaints

In severe cases, these remedies do not help enough and it is recommended to consult a doctor. This will almost always give you oxygen and extra medication. Pay attention to whether you reduce your symptoms or not. If not, you should get more or more oxygen. Please report this yourself. Most doctors automatically set up little oxygen to begin with. However, it is important that your symptoms disappear the moment you get oxygen. So don’t be “satisfied” too quickly and stay with the doctor long enough. You have to leave the hospital or the doctor’s office without or with very mild symptoms. If the symptoms come back afterwards, do not hesitate to go back for more oxygen. Administering oxygen is painless, easy and it relieves pain almost immediately.

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