Managing Machu Picchu Altitude Sickness: A Guide
Dealing with Machu Picchu altitude sickness can be a real uphill battle.
No exaggeration intended, but Machu Picchu altitude sickness is undoubtedly the primary issue for many visitors to this ancient Incan city.
Machu Picchu altitude sickness is the #1 concern for most travelers to this ancient Incan city. They often need help with how to handle it. But that’s what separates the unprepared tourist from the savvy traveler. If you don’t know how to manage altitude sickness effectively, your dream Peruvian adventure might be uncomfortable.
Navigating through high altitudes is tough stuff, folks.
Consider one excited backpacker who shared his story of being laid low by severe nausea and headaches on reaching Cusco – all because he underestimated the impact of Machu Picchu altitude sickness.
The poor guy was
Understanding Altitude Sickness in Cusco and Machu Picchu
If you’re scheduling a journey to the Peruvian Andes, you must comprehend altitude sickness. This condition can turn an otherwise thrilling adventure into a miserable experience.
So let’s explore what this ailment is all about and why places like Cusco and Machu Picchu are often associated with it.
What is altitude sickness?
The term ‘altitude sickness’ might sound intimidating, but don’t worry – we’ve got your back. Also known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) occurs when someone ascends too rapidly to high altitudes where oxygen levels are significantly lower than at sea level.
Symptoms of AMS resemble those of the flu: headaches, nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath – these usually show up within hours after reaching higher elevations. If left untreated, AMS can progress to life-threatening forms such as HAPE and HACE, necessitating urgent medical attention. Both conditions require immediate medical attention.
The role of high altitudes in causing altitude sickness
In regions like Cusco and Machu Picchu situated above 8k feet from sea level, atmospheric pressure drops drastically, making the air thinner, i.e., less oxygen available for breathing, thus affecting the body’s metabolic activities, which depend on an adequate supply via blood circulation.
Your body tries its best to adapt by increasing heart rate and respiration pace upon arrival; however, these compensatory mechanisms aren’t always sufficient, leading to the manifestation of the symptoms above. [source].
To avoid falling prey to this illness while traveling to regions located above 8000 feet elevation, travelers are advised to take necessary precautions, ensuring a gradual ascent, allowing their bodies time to acclimatize to new environmental conditions. [source].
Prepping for a Peruvian adventure? Don’t let altitude sickness rain on your parade. Understand it’s caused by rapid ascent to high altitudes like Cusco and Machu Picchu, where oxygen is scarce. Symptoms mimic the flu but can worsen if ignored. Prevent it with gradual inclines and ample acclimatization time.
Preparing for Your Trip to High-Altitude Locations
Trekking up the Peruvian Andes to visit Machu Picchu or exploring Cusco’s ancient streets can be an exhilarating experience. However, due to their high altitudes, these locations present unique challenges, such as altitude sickness. To ensure a successful journey, taking the necessary steps for acclimatization is essential.
Importance of Acclimatization
The first step is acclimatizing – giving your body time and space to adjust naturally from lower altitudes like sea level up towards higher elevations where oxygen levels decrease significantly. But how does one achieve this?
A common approach involves spending a couple of days at mid-level heights (around 2000m-3000m) before attempting any further ascent into the dizzying peaks of the Andean mountainscape.
This strategy allows your body ample opportunity to adapt its breathing rate and heart rhythm accordingly to function efficiently under reduced atmospheric pressure conditions typical at such lofty terrains without triggering severe symptoms associated with acute mountain sickness.
Staying Hydrated at High Altitudes
Hydration becomes crucial when dealing with changes brought about by elevation shifts since our bodies tend to lose water faster than usual while operating within thin-air environments found above normal elevations.
In response, we need to consume more fluids throughout the day. Hence, drinking plenty of clean, safe water is regularly advised, especially if engaging in physically demanding activities like hiking the Inca Trail or Huayna Picchu, which require significant energy expenditure over extended periods. This increases the risk of dehydration-related complications that can be avoided through proper fluid intake practices.
Avoiding Alcohol Consumption
You might think that having a few drinks would help ease the discomfort caused by the sudden shift in barometric pressure. Still, unfortunately, alcohol tends to exacerbate issues rather than alleviate them, according to various health studies conducted worldwide over the years. (source)
Rather than providing relief, alcohol dehydrates us, thereby hindering the natural adaptation process necessary to effectively.
Key Takeaway: To combat altitude sickness in high-altitude locations like Machu Picchu, acclimatize by spending a few days at mid-level heights before ascending further. Stay hydrated as your body loses water faster due to thin air environments, and avoid alcohol which can exacerbate dehydration and hinder the natural adaptation process.
Coping with Symptoms Upon Arrival
Altitude sickness is a common issue faced by travelers visiting high-altitude locations like Cusco and Machu Picchu. Recognizing the symptoms early on, understanding their causes, and knowing how to manage them effectively can make your journey more comfortable.
Taking Rest During Initial Days
The beginning of your time at higher elevations is essential for adapting to the environment. During the initial days, you may feel mild altitude sickness as your body adjusts to reduced oxygen levels. How do you combat these effects? The answer lies in rest.
Resting doesn’t mean being inactive; it means avoiding strenuous activities while exploring local attractions or enjoying leisurely meals at nearby restaurants. Research suggests gradual exposure improves tolerance towards low-oxygen environments significantly better than sudden exposure.
Giving yourself some downtime allows your body to adapt naturally without overexertion – an essential step towards overcoming altitude-related discomforts such as fatigue or dizziness caused specifically because they result from decreased atmospheric pressure upon reaching greater heights above sea level.
Deep Breathing Techniques
Breathing techniques have been proven effective when dealing with altitude sickness. Deep breathing exercises increase the oxygen supply within our bodies, which helps counteract some of the negative impacts of thin air at high elevations, such as shortness of breath or lightheadedness.
- A simple yet powerful technique involves inhaling deeply through your nose until your lungs feel full (but not strained), holding this breath for three seconds before slowly exhaling through pursed lips until all air has been expelled from the lungs again, repeating several times throughout each day could provide noticeable relief.
- In addition to combating symptoms related specifically because they result from decreased atmospheric pressure upon reaching greater heights above sea level, practicing controlled respiration promotes general well-being by reducing stress levels, improving focus concentration, and enhancing sleep quality, among other benefits.
- You don’t need any special equipment or training- patience, perseverance, and practice make perfect
Ease into high-altitude adventures like Machu Picchu by recognizing altitude sickness symptoms early, resting during initial days for acclimatization, and practicing deep breathing techniques. Remember: slow and steady wins the race when adjusting to thin air.
Use of Medication and Local Remedies
The challenge of altitude sickness in places like Cusco and Machu Picchu can seem daunting, but the solutions are quite simple. Let’s look at how you can use medicinal remedies such as Sorojchi pills and local traditional cures like coca tea to alleviate symptoms associated with higher elevations.
Benefits of Sorojchi Pills Against Mountain Illness
Sorojchi pills have become a go-to remedy for tourists visiting high-altitude locations. These over-the-counter medications contain aspirin, salophen, and caffeine, which work together to combat discomfort from altitude sickness.
The aspirin component acts as an analgesic, relieving pain while reducing inflammation caused by changes in air pressure at higher altitudes. Salophen has been recognized for its capability to fight off nausea, a frequent symptom of altitude sickness. Lastly, caffeine helps counteract fatigue, another typical symptom experienced by those adjusting to higher elevations.
You can purchase Sorojchi pills online or find them readily available once you arrive in Peru. Consult a medical professional before beginning any new medication regimen, particularly if you have existing health problems or take other drugs routinely.
Coca Tea as a Traditional Remedy for Altitude Sickness
In addition to modern medicines like Sorojchi pills, many locals swear by coca tea as a natural remedy against mountain illness that has traditionally been used among indigenous communities living at high altitudes throughout South America, including Peru, where they’re brewed into hot or cold teas.
- Natural Alkaloids: Coca leaves contain alkaloids that help stimulate oxygen flow within the body, thereby helping offset some effects from low-oxygen environments such as those at elevated heights.
- Mild Stimulant Effect: The mild stimulant effect of consuming this beverage may aid energy levels, aiding visitor
Altitude sickness at Machu Picchu can be tackled with Sorojchi pills and coca tea. The former contains aspirin, salophen, and caffeine to combat discomfort, while the latter is a traditional remedy that boosts oxygen flow and energy levels. Always consult a healthcare professional before starting any new medication regimen.
FAQs about Machu Picchu Altitude Sickness
How common is altitude sickness in Machu Picchu?
Altitude sickness at Machu Picchu is fairly common due to its high elevation of around 7,972 feet above sea level.
Why do people get sick in Machu Picchu?
Sickness in Machu Picchu often stems from the rapid ascent to high altitudes, which can lead to a condition known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS).
Will I get sick in Machu Picchu?
The likelihood of getting sick varies per individual. However, proper acclimatization and hydration can significantly reduce the risk of altitude sickness.
How bad is the altitude sickness on Inca Trail?
The severity of altitude sickness on the Inca Trail depends on personal health conditions and how well one acclimates. Symptoms range from mild headaches to severe AMS.
Understanding altitude sickness is key to conquering the heights of Cusco and Machu Picchu.
You’ve learned that acclimatization, hydration, rest, and avoiding alcohol can help you prepare for high altitudes.
If symptoms strike upon arrival, remember to take it easy and practice deep breathing techniques.
Remember Sorojchi pills or local remedies like coca tea, too!
Machu Picchu altitude sickness doesn’t have to ruin your Peruvian adventure.
Ready for more tips on exploring Peru’s most famous site? Dive into ETP’s ultimate guide.
Miguel is a professional tour guide from Cusco, Peru, with almost 20 years of experience leading tours and a deep knowledge of Peru’s cultural and ecological diversity. He is also an advocate of ecotourism and cultural sensitivity and has lectured on these topics in the US and Europe. He co-founded Evolution Treks Peru, a worker-owned travel company based in Cusco.