Cusco's High Altitude: Understanding and Avoiding Altitude Sickness
Situated at an impressive elevation of 3,399 meters (11,152 feet), the captivating city of Cusco awaits visitors with its rich history and awe-inspiring landscapes. However, the higher altitudes can pose a challenge for some, as they may experience altitude sickness, also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS) or "soroche" in the Inca's Quechua language, a term resonating throughout the Andes.
Symptoms of altitude sickness, as outlined by the Mayo Clinic, encompass a range of discomforts such as fatigue, loss of appetite, sleepiness, nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, or headache.
It is crucial to acknowledge that altitude sickness can affect anyone, irrespective of age or physical fitness. However, there are proactive steps to minimize its impact. Gradual acclimatization is a key strategy, involving a slow ascent to higher altitudes, considering previous experiences at similar elevations. Crafted itineraries for Cusco allow for a smooth progression in altitude, making acclimatization feasible.
In addition to gradual ascent, there are other preventive measures that are easier to implement. Prior to traveling to higher altitudes, ensure to hydrate adequately by consuming two or more liters of water the day or a couple of days before departure. To avoid discomfort at higher altitudes, especially during the initial days, refrain from heavy meals, particularly red meat, which takes longer to digest. Instead, keep chocolate or sugary treats on hand, as they can help combat sleepiness or drowsiness caused by altitude.
For coffee enthusiasts, indulging in coffee at the destination can prove beneficial, as it acts as a vasodilator, promoting better oxygen flow. While on location, adopt a leisurely pace and walk slowly, preventing your heart rate from accelerating. Embrace the idea that you are on vacation, and there is no need to rush. By adhering to these measures, you can fully enjoy the wonders of Cusco and its surroundings, while minimizing the potential impact of altitude sickness.