If you are anything like me and have never experienced altitude before then you could be in for a shock. Whether you are as fit as a fiddle or haven’t exercised in your life, altitude sickness can affect anyone.
From my experience If you have never been at altitude before I would recommend to slowly introduce yourself to it. If you’re going to hike the inca trail spend a half a week in Cusco and do some day hikes and walk around and see the city. If you go from sea level to 3000m you could be putting your body under a lot of stress.
Altitude sickness is a very real thing and should be taken very seriously. While I was traveling through Bolivia there were two people in the space of a week who passed away from altitude sickness potentially because they did not recognizing their symptoms or act upon them.
Signs of altitude sickness
- A drop in performance
- Lack of coordination
- Appetite loss
For me, I got hit hard. It was probably the worst 3 days of my life. You really can’t do much to stop it. The headaches the vomiting and the all round terrible feeling your body has is pretty intense. You can feel the pressure on your body internally and externally, and would not wish it upon anyone.
Myself and another guy in the group got hit the hardest, some of the others where feeling ill and light headed but most of them vomited a couple of times and then they were fine.
The best way to prevent altitude sickness according to the Better Health Channel is to ascend slowly. Once you are more than 3,000 m above sea level, only advance 300 m or less per day.
Other suggestions for preventing altitude sickness include:
- See your doctor for information and advice before your trip.
- Some climbers believe that switching to a high-carbohydrate diet before they go trekking helps to reduce the risks.
- Be prepared. Pack all necessary first aid items, including medications.
- Considerable evidence exists for the effectiveness of acetazolamide as a preventative. It is particularly useful if you are flying into a location at altitude and will not have time to adjust. Salmeterol inhalers and even Viagra-like drugs have been used to prevent fluid building up in the lungs.
- Remember that medications such as nifedipine and dexamethasone are best used as a treatment for mild altitude sickness, not as a prevention measure. These medications could mask the early warning signs.
- Only climb with experienced guides.
- Increase your fluid intake. You may need up to seven litres every day.
- Avoid cigarettes and alcohol.
- Sleeping tablets must not be used, as they can lead to an increase in hypoxia due to their central nervous system depressing action.
- Be aware that you are at increased risk of altitude sickness if you have experienced it before.
What worked for me!
The best thing that worked for me was drinking a lot of water and chewing/sucking on a big lump of coca leaves. For me the Coca leaves settled my stomach and the water just helped keep my hydrated. I couldn’t eat much solid foods but i did find soups really helped.
From my experience the best thing you can do is go and speak to a travel doctor and talk about the trip you’re going to go on and the risks that are involved and the best way to prevent altitude sickness. I know you can get altitude tablets, some people in my group had them and didn’t have to use it at all and some used them but still got sick whether the tablets helped to a degree no one knows. And that’s exactly what my doctor said to me its a roll of the dice and altitude does some crazy things to your body and obviously if you haven’t experienced altitude before then you won’t know how you will react.
If you want another opinion on what being at altitude is like and what the effect are check out Lotsafreshair Youtube video of her experience hiking at high altitude and getting sick.