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How to avoid altitude sickness in Cusco and Machu Picchu (11 High Altitude Tips)

 

HOW TO AVOID ALTITUDE SICKNESS IN CUSCO

(11 HIGH ALTITUDE TIPS)

 

Altitude sickness is a real thing in Cusco.

It can ruin your vacation!

Here are 11 best high altitude tips on how to avoid altitude sickness in Cusco.

 

 

While planning my trip to Peru, I read several articles about altitude sickness. Needless to say, I made some mental notes about it. However, I did not take it very seriously.

I am in good health and I basically thought that I will be just fine. I was wrong.

On the contrary, I got very sick just after a few hours after arriving to Cusco. I developed a massive headache and dizziness, which in turn contributed to nausea and vomiting. This post is about how to avoid altitude sickness in Cusco.

 

 

WHAT IS ALTITUDE SICKNESS

 

Altitude sickness is sometimes called “mountain sickness”.

It is a group of symptoms that can strike if you find yourself at a high elevation, or altitude, too quickly.

 

 

AT WHAT ELEVATION DOES ALTITUDE SICKNESS STRIKE

 

Altitude sickness starts affecting people at the elevation of 8,000 feet to higher. Cusco is at the elevation of 11,152 feet. So, needless to say, extra precautions need to be taken while you are in Cusco.

As a comparison, Aguas Calientes is at an elevation of 6,693 feet. Machu Picchu is at an elevation of 7,972 feet.
 

OXYGEN DECREASES AS YOU ASCEND

  • Available oxygen at sea level= 100%
  • Available oxygen at 5000 feet = 80% (of sea level oxygen)
  • Available oxygen at 10,000 feet = 69% (of sea level oxygen)
  • Available oxygen at 15,000 feet = 56% (of sea level oxygen)
 

 

WHY DOES ALTITUDE SICKNESS AFFECT US

 

At high elevations the air is “thinner”. It basically means that there is less pressure. Even though, the oxygen percentage remains the same, the air is less dense. As a result, each breath you take, it contains less oxygen than what you are used to.

 

 

If you live in a place that is located at a high altitude, your body gets used to the air with less pressure and less oxygen. However, if you live at a relatively flat place and fly into a place located at a high altitude, you will be at risk for altitude sickness.

 

 

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How to avoid altitude sickness in Cusco and Machu Picchu (11 High Altitude Tips)

How to avoid altitude sickness in Cusco and Machu Picchu (11 High Altitude Tips)

 

 

WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF ALTITUDE SICKNESS

 

  • Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is the mildest form and it’s very common. The symptoms can feel like a hangoverdizziness, headache, muscle aches, nausea.
  • High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) is a buildup of fluid in the lungs that can be very dangerous and even life threatening.
  • High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) is the most severe form of altitude sickness and happens when there’s fluid in the brain. It’s life threatening and you need to seek medical attention right away.

 

 

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF ALTITUDE SICKNESS

 

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue and loss of energy
  • Difficulty breathing (shortness of breath)
  • Problems with sleep
  • Loss of appetite

Symptoms usually come on within 12 to 24 hours of reaching a higher elevation and then get better within a day or two as your body adjusts to the change in altitude.

If your symptoms do not improve, or on the other hand get worse, seek medical help.

 
 

 

7 TIPS ON HOW TO AVOID ALTITUDE SICKNESS IN CUSCO

 

 

NUMBER 1

ACCLIMATE

 

The best way you can lower your chance of getting altitude sickness is through acclimatization. It means that you give your body time to adjust to the change in air pressure. Specifically, you start traveling at lower elevation and gradually get to higher elevation.

If you are flying in to Cusco in the morning, it might be a good idea to immediately travel outside of Cusco. The elevation will drop down and it will allow your body to adjust.

 

How to avoid altitude sickness in Cusco and Machu Picchu
Give your body time to adjust to the change in air pressure.

 

 

NUMBER 2

TAKE IT SLOW AND EASY

 

Take it slow and easy for the first few days in a high altitude. Allow your body to adjust.

Above all, do not engage in strenuous activities.

 

 

NUMBER 3

TAKE DEEP BREATHS

 

You will find yourself short of breath on many occasions.

To help your body, take deep and long breaths in and out.

 

 

NUMBER 4

EAT CARBS

 

When you are at a higher altitude, you need more calories.

Make sure to eat plenty of healthy carbohydrates, including whole grains.

 

How to avoid altitude sickness in Cusco and Machu Picchu
Eat plenty of healthy carbohydrates, including whole grains.

 

 

NUMBER 5

AVOID ALCOHOL

 

Alcohol, cigarettes, and medications like sleeping pills can make altitude sickness symptoms worse.

At any rate, avoid drinking alcohol, smoking, or taking sleeping pills during your trip to higher altitude places.

 

 

NUMBER 6

DRINK PLENTY OF WATER

 

Stay hydrated. It is one of the most important things you can do to battle altitude sickness.

This may not alleviate altitude sickness exactly, but sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between altitude sickness and dehydration, and high elevations tend to be very dry, meaning you need more water for proper hydration.

 

 

NUMBER 7

CHECK OUT AVAILABLE MEDICATION

 

Talk to your health care provider about any medications which might be available to prevent altitude sickness.

Conversely, there is some evidence that taking acetazolamide (brand name Diamox) two days before the trip and during the trip may prevent altitude sickness.

If your altitude sickness reaches emergency status, go to the emergency room immediately!

 

 

NUMBER 8

TRY COCA TEA

 

Peruvians swear by coca tea as an antidote to thin air.

This natural remedy is readily available in hotel receptions and offers almost immediate relief to dizziness for many.

Have iced tea with the leaves to take with you on day trips or, if you feel like getting into the spirit of things, chew them like a local.

 

How to avoid altitude sickness in Cusco and Machu Picchu
if you feel like getting into the spirit of things, chew the coca leaves like a local.

 

 

NUMBER 9

BUY PORTABLE OXYGEN CANS

 

A few puffs of oxygen can work wonders.

Buy a couple of oxygen cans and carry them in your backpack.

When you start feeling lightheaded or start getting a headache, then take a few oxygen loaded breaths.

 

 

NUMBER 10

EAT LIGHT

 

Eat light! Avoid heavy foods that can make you feel nauseated.

 

How to avoid altitude sickness in Cusco and Machu Picchu
When you are in Cusco, try some of the delicious, freshly squeezed juices.

 

 

NUMBER 11

PRACTICE YOGA

 

Practice yoga and focus on the poses that will get more blood and in turn more oxygen to the brain. Concentrate on deep-breathing exercises, which will help with shortness of breath, bringing more air into your lungs.

 

 

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How to avoid altitude sickness in Cusco and Machu Picchu (11 High Altitude Tips)

How to avoid altitude sickness in Cusco and Machu Picchu (11 High Altitude Tips)

 

INTREPID SCOUT’S POINTERS FOR HOW TO AVOID ALTITUDE SICKNESS IN CUSCO

  • Take deep breaths
  • Drink a lot of water
  • Take it easy

 

 

Now, it is your turn. I would like to hear back from you!

Are you planning your trip to Peru?

Please let me know! Drop me a quick comment right below!

Also, click on any of the images below to get inspired and to help you with the planning process with your trip to Peru!

 

 

 

Comments:

2 thoughts on “How to Avoid Altitude Sickness in Cusco (11 High Altitude Tips)


2019-04-08

Hi Anna, so pleased to find your amazing travel site. I am a baby boomer who loves to travel too. I have never been to Machu Picchu but my good friends recently went and all of them got this high altitude sickness. Pity they didn’t know your handy tips. Not sure they would have complied with no alcohol though knowing them, I am enjoying looking at all your wonderful photographs. i have followed you on Instagram too.

    2019-04-09

    Thank you Leeroy!
    And Hello to another Baby Boomer!
    I am so glad you like my website. I have worked hard on it learning everything from scratch!
    If you have never been to MP, then I want to encourage you to plan your trip. It was an unforgettable experience for me.
    The altitude sickness is a real thing. I ignored it and it got me.
    Thank you for following me on Instagram!
    Anna

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