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: Don’t Let High Altitude Sickness Ruin the View of Your Next Trip

Don’t Let High Altitude Sickness Ruin the View of Your Next Trip

Jr. Quality Coordinator

Last month, I took a trip to Machu Picchu, and as soon as we got out of the airplane, my husband and I immediately experienced altitude sickness, known as soroche in Peru. We were aware that this can occur at heights of 8,000 feet (2,500 m) above sea level, but were not ready for the symptoms. We began to feel swollen, without breath, accelerated heartbeat, dizzy, and more.

Although the symptoms may vary from person to person, there are several common symptoms associated with altitude sickness. These include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy
  • Poor sleep
  • Loss of appetite

Most people who find themselves afflicted with altitude sickness describe feeling drunk. For me, the only remedy was to drink tea and try to rest as much as possible.

There is really no good way to combat altitude sickness, and it can strike even the fittest, healthiest traveler. As soon as you pass the 8,000 feet mark, you are at risk of acute mountain sickness (AMS), the mildest and most common form of the condition.

Even more severe forms also exist: high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) and high altitude cerebral edema (HACE). Both can occur when a person nears 8,000 feet, but they are more common at heights of about 12,000 feet (3,600 m) and higher.

There is no way to know beforehand if you are susceptible to altitude sickness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "how a traveler has responded to high altitude previously is the most reliable guide for future trips, but is not infallible."

Although altitude sickness took me by surprise and was certainly unpleasant, I don't regret my trip to Peru. It was worth every step, and I learned a little something in the meantime. The following tip may help you better prepare and ensure you stay as health as possible:

  • Go slowly. A slow ascent is always the best option. Whenever possible, give your body time to adjust to the altitude. Proper acclimatization is the best defense against altitude sickness.
  • Keep a low (literally and figuratively) profile at first. Take it easy for the first 24 hours at altitude; don't overexert yourself and don't go any higher. This is particularly important if you're arriving by plane.
  • Drink…but only water. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and sleeping pills. Keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  • Carb load. Well, maybe not really, but eating high-carbohydrate foods (such as pasta, potatoes, and bread) can help the body use oxygen more efficiently and help maintain your energy levels.

 If you plan on going to place of high altitude, remember to take it slow, eat light, and rest as much as you can. And if you do, you might just get to see this amazing view.


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