Dealing with Altitude Sickness

Indagare founder, Melissa Biggs Bradley, on some pieces of sage advice about dealing with altitude that she received in Peru:

1. Oxygenate

Reserve an oxygenated room at the Hotel Monasterio, Palacio Nazarenas or Casa Andina Private Collection in Cusco. You can also buy a canister of oxygen for $15 at the OxiShot counter in the airport. It will deliver an instant shot of natural oxygen should you start to feel bad.

2. Medicate

Since I’d suffered severely from altitude sickness in the past, I started on prescription Diamox (acetazolamide) forty-eight hours before I left for Cusco, but consult with your physician before taking any prescription medicine. With over-the-counter drugs, take aspirin or Aleve or ibuprofen instead of acetaminophen. The Institute for Altitude Medicine notes that there is some evidence that these are effective on high-altitude headaches and may help prevent AMS. Ibuprofen may be easier on the stomach than aspirin. Homeopathic practitioners also recommend starting ChlorOxygen, chlorophyll concentrate drops a week before you travel.

3. Hydrate

Make sure to drink enough water to keep hydrated a day before departure. But don’t overdo it, as the Institute for Altitude Medicine warns that too much water can dilute your sodium levels. Upon arrival, stick to fluids if possible the first day; some people also find lemon drops helpful. Drink coca tea, the local cure, which has been used for centuries. (It also purportedly helps arthritis, rheumatism and digestion.) Avoid alcohol and coffee, both of which are dehydrating.

4. Eat Lightly

The less you eat, especially of heavy food, the easier it is for your body to digest. So it is recommended to have snacks or small meals throughout the day, instead of large heavy meals.

5. Go Slowly

Your first day or so, do not push yourself on hikes or other strenuous activities. Take it easy while your body adjusts to the altitude.

Most importantly, if you do experience symptoms (vomiting, dizziness, mental confusion or, most important, a cough), seek medical advice promptly. Many of the better hotels have a doctor on the premises or on standby.

Published onSeptember 27, 2011

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