Altitude sickness can become excruciatingly severe… if you let it. The symptoms start out with lightheadness and continue to headaches, nausea, vomiting and can get even worse. Taking care of yourself before it escalates to that is the most important thing. You may have heard of the pill to prevent altitude sickness. Well, the same pill can actually give you the symptoms of having altitude sickness- so is it really worth it? I think not. Use these 5 tips to stay safe and healthy during your first few days of acclimation when arriving in Cusco, Peru.
1. Stay Hydrated!
Long flights severely dehydrate you. I always suggest that travelers bring a full sized water bottle to fill up at the airport, or buy one when they pass through security. The mini water bottles and teeny cups they distribute on the planes are almost comical. 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated, so if you’re an American, I’d start drinking water before you even board the plane. Always drink water, even if you don’t feel like you need any. By the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.
2. Don’t Overexert Yourself
My elevation change was over 11,000 feet, so I really felt the effects. On my first day I experienced severe cramps in my lungs because I overexerted myself. Take it easy on your first day in Cusco! Hiking, running, or any extreme adventuring should be off the table for the first 1-2 days after your arrival. It takes time for your body to acclimate to the low levels of oxygen at such high elevations.
3. Drink Coca Tea
Coca tea is a gift from heaven! I personally, don’t drink tea (or even coffee), but I drank a cup of coca tea every day I was in Peru. It is available in the homestays, volunteer housing, and the Maximo Nivel offices complimentary. You can find coca tea bags at the grocery store or raw coca leaves in the market. The locals chew on the leaves throughout the day for the same effects. Coca naturally helps with altitude sickness and has been proven to be beneficial for your health in many other ways.
Getting plenty of rest is essential for avoiding altitude sickness, as well as overcoming jetlag. I’m an avid traveler and one of my tricks for overcoming jetlag is to arrive in the evening so I can go right to bed upon arriving. It’s a great way to adjust to the time change too!
5. Remember to BREATHE!
It’s common for us to hold our breaths during daily activities. Remind yourself to take deep breaths every now and then. The air is thin of oxygen at these elevations, so even if you don’t feel like it, you do.
– Nicole B.