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¿How to prevent altitude sickness in Peru?

May 2, 2022

Experiencing tourism in Peru is undoubtedly a unique experience in which it is possible to enjoy truly wonderful landscapes. If you are thinking of visiting Cusco, you can opt for our guided tours. We offer you the opportunity to visit the Humantay Lagoon, Rainbow Mountain and the Sacred Valley.

While it is true that this tour does not compare to any other, it is important to note that the city of Cusco is located at 3399 meters above sea level. It is essential to know how to prevent altitude sickness in Peru. Therefore, we tell you everything you should know.

¿What is altitude sickness?

Mountain sickness, also known as altitude sickness, is nothing more than the lack of oxygen that occurs at high altitudes.

As the altitude increases, the proportions of oxygen in the air remain the same; however, the atmospheric pressure decreases and for this reason, the air becomes much thinner. As a consequence, the availability of oxygen is much lower.

prevent altitude sickness, cusco


In order to be completely clear about how to prevent altitude sickness in Peru, it is necessary to know which are the symptoms that usually occur in these cases. Some of the common ones are:

  • Severe headache.
  • Nausea, dizziness, vomiting and loss of appetite.
  • Fatigue.
  • Weakness
  • Trouble falling asleep.
  • Apparent state of «drunkenness» coupled with dizziness.

These symptoms may appear within 6 to 12 hours after reaching high altitudes. However, on some occasions they may take up to 24 hours to appear.

¿At what altitude is oxygen deprivation noticeable?

Shortness of breath can begin to be felt as early as 2500 meters above sea level. However, 30% of people experience their first symptoms at 3000 meters above sea level. On the other hand, 65-70% of travelers show symptoms at 4000 meters above sea level.

prevent altitude sickness, cusco

¿How to avoid and prevent the effects of altitude sickness in Peru?

How to prevent altitude sickness in Peru, should be one of your main investigations if you are thinking of doing tourism in the Andean area of this beautiful country. Therefore, we must be prepared to counteract this condition or avoid it at all costs. The most important tips we can give you are:

Do not rush on any trip and take it easy.

Heart rate at high altitudes increases. High altitudes cause the blood plasma volume to be much lower. If we run while on the tour, the heart rate will increase rapidly and, consequently, we can reach extreme fatigue levels.

Important to hydrate

Constant hydration provides a number of health benefits. Firstly, it supplements the carbohydrate (CH) energy level. On the other hand, it is important to note that the higher the altitude, the more water we lose through respiration.

Take a break

If the trek lasts several days or involves a considerable altitude level, it is important to rest adequately to avoid unnecessary exhaustion. Stops allow you to recover energy and avoid fatigue.

Breathing deeply

When exposed to high altitudes, breathing is vital. Normally, we breathe involuntarily, but when climbing to high altitudes it is necessary to control our breathing. Breathing calmly and smoothly helps you stay in control.

Watch what you eat

If you travel to Cusco and want to know everything about how to prevent altitude sickness in Peru, you should also take into account your diet.

Before starting the tour, we recommend avoiding as much as possible the intake of foods of complex digestion. It is much more advisable to maintain a soft diet in order not to generate more effort to your body.

Do not drink or smoke

Preferably, avoid drinking any alcoholic beverages for at least two days before the ascent. This also applies in the case of coffee and soft drinks. The reason is that this type of beverage favors dehydration and increases the symptoms.

In the case of tobacco, it contributes to fatigue and tiredness, as well as increasing headaches.

Dress in layers

In the Andean zone of Peru, there are usually many weather changes during the course of the day. It is not advisable to expose yourself to either very low or very high temperatures. Therefore, dressing in layers is ideal according to the levels of cold or heat.

¿ How does coca leaf help with altitude sickness?

Once you are at your destination, you can chew a coca leaf and place it at the sides of your mouth without swallowing it. In this case, you only need to swallow the juice it expels.

In case you do not like the taste of the leaf, you can resort to coca candies. Coca leaf allows oxygen to be better absorbed into the blood.

How to fight altitude sickness

prevent altitude sickness, cusco

Is it worth buying pills for altitude sickness?

Currently, there are already a large number of pills that are used to combat the effects of altitude sickness. These are low-cost drugs that are easily accessible.

In fact, in Cusco you can buy them in any pharmacy without a prescription. Basically, you should start taking them before starting your climb. One of the most common medicines for soroche that you can buy is Sorochepill.

However, we recommend consulting with your physician before purchasing and trying these drugs.

Don’t forget your health insurance

Do not under any circumstances overlook your health insurance. You should not wait until you reach your limits to see a doctor. If you feel you can’t continue with the tour, medical attention should always be your first option.

They will most likely help you with oxygenation quickly. In this sense, it is essential to have reliable travel insurance. Just contact them and they should take care of any eventuality.

¿ What to do in case of soroche?

How to prevent altitude sickness in Peru is important; however, if you are already going through it, you should consider some aspects.

Mainly, you should not continue ascending to avoid aggravating the symptoms. Take oxygen support if necessary and go to a doctor as soon as possible.

Locations where you can suffer from altitude sickness in Peru

In Peru there are several destinations where you can suffer from altitude sickness. One of them is Cusco, where you will find tours such as the Arcoiris Mountain that reaches 5 thousand meters; another is Puno, which has as its main attraction the Titicaca Lake. We recommend a couple of days in each city to acclimatize before starting the tours.

Altitude of Cusco and Machu Picchu

Being located in the middle of mountains, you may think that Machu Picchu is at a higher altitude than Cusco, but it is not. The Imperial City is located at 3399 meters above sea level. Machu Picchu is 2430 meters above sea level.

Altitude of the Sacred Valley

The impressive Sacred Valley of the Incas is located below Cusco at about 2800 meters.