Our Guide for Altitude Sickness


The atmospheric pressure decreases the higher you are. Simply, the air density varies depending on altitude. This means that in the same breath of air on a beach or at a summit of, for example, 6,000 meters above sea level, your lungs will transmit a very different amount of oxygen to the blood. Without enough oxygen your body begins to suffer hypoxia and, with it, the first symptoms of altitude sickness, known in Peru as soroche, apunamiento or puna.


It may feel like you’re hung over. You may experience dizziness, nausea and vomiting, general exhaustion, headache, rapid and short breathing, elevated heart rate, and sleep disturbances. At extreme altitudes above 8,000 metres, it can be fatal. But calm, let’s go by parts.


If you were born near sea level and lived there all your life, you will feel like an ideal candidate for high-altitude illness (although, again, it can never really be predicted). It is possible, if it is your first time in Cusco, that you feel headaches, nausea, or discomfort. These are some of the symptoms of altitude sickness, and we will tell you how to avoid them. For the second time, remember that altitude sickness is not something to be taken lightly and that it has caused some deaths in Cusco. In all cases, to people who did not pay enough attention. Nor will you like to spend your incredible holiday to one of the wonders of the world, in a hospital.

There are studies that show that children under fifty are more likely to suffer from this disease. In addition to a high or low biological propensity of each individual difficult to determine, people who practice cardiovascular sports with assiduity may have more options to get out of the puna unscathed.

Otherwise, you’re less likely to experience it if you live at a higher altitude. If you live on the coast, in any city over 1000 meters above sea level you will be short of air. A practical example: Argentina’s national football team plays a visit to Bolivia in La Paz. In a few minutes, the Argentines will look exhausted, while the Bolivian national team can run the whole match. This is due to the fact that the Bolivian body has adapted to the scarcity of oxygen in the air (this is also the reason some football federations have wanted to eliminate La Paz as a venue for matches).


1) Acclimatization: Smooth and sustained. Rushes and altitudes were never good friends. It is for this reason that climbers who want to crown Everest spend days, even weeks at base camp. If you arrive in San Pedro de Atacama (2 400 m) on a Tuesday, do not try to climb the Tatio Geysers (4 200 m) on Wednesday. Allow a few days for your body to get used to it.

2) Act at the first symptoms: The body will send you messages that something is not right. When you feel pointed or with altitude sickness, lie down and rest.

3) Hydration: Drink more water than usual to prevent dehydration, to accentuate the symptoms of the puna. Drink before you are always thirsty.

4) Remedies and medication: You can take anti-inflammatory drugs to alleviate symptoms such as headache and general malaise, but they only cover up the problem. The most effective formula for the puna is also the oldest. Consuming the coca leaf, either as an infusion or chewing it fresh, will considerably reduce discomfort. If you are concerned about the narcotic effects of the plant, you don’t have to; 500 bags of coca tea would be needed to extract one gram of cocaine, of which only one nanogram would be absorbed by the body. Coca leaves simply have a bad press in the world.

5) No alcohol or tobacco: It may seem obvious, but as long as you get used to the altitude, it is not advisable to smoke. You don’t need your lung capacity to be reduced any more than it already is. Alcohol is not advisable either, as it promotes dehydration.

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