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Tips to Avoid Altitude Sickness in Cusco and Machu Picchu

2 min read

Tips to Avoid Altitude Sickness in Cusco and Machu Picchu

You are taking the trip of a lifetime to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World —Machu Picchu. You know you need to be prepared for the altitude; you definitely don’t want to get altitude sickness while on vacation. Here are a few tips to avoid it while visiting the Cusco Region.

What Is Altitude Sickness?

High altitude starts to impact the human body somewhere between 4,921 and 6,561 feet, and sickness generally kicks in around 8,000. Cusco, the city closest to Machu Picchu, is located at 11,200 feet. Machu Picchu is actually lower than Cusco at around 7,900 feet. 

Many visitors feel the symptoms of altitude sickness when they arrive. These symptoms occur  when our bodies start to make changes to help to adjust to lower oxygen levels. The higher you go, the lower the air pressure gets and the more the  oxygen in the air decreases.

If you ascend slowly, your body can usually acclimate to the change in air pressure. It usually takes about three days to completely adjust.

Symptoms of altitude sickness can include:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Poor appetite
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness

Most of these are fairly mild, but severe lung complications can occur, depending on your age and medical history.

How Can You Prevent Altitude Sickness?

There is a lot you can do to prepare your body for higher altitude. Here are a few things to consider before and during your trip:

  1. Take time to acclimatize. Rest ia an important part of managing altitude sickness. Give yourself enough time to rest the first few days after you arrive.  You don’t want to exert yourself before your body has fully adjusted. Exercise — or even just climbing a flight of stairs — may be more difficult, so give your body a break.
  2. Stay hydrated. Long flights can make you dehydrated. Try to drink lots of water on the airplane and once you arrive. Avoid alcohol and drugs, which can worsen dehydration and altitude sickness.
  3. Drink coca tea. Most hotels in the Cusco region offer this tea, made from the same plant as cocaine, although without the addictive qualities. It is a stimulant that helps to improve blood flow so you don’t feel the effects of the altitude as much. Limit yourself to no more than a few cups a day, as it can cause a rapid heart rate.
  4. Go lower if needed. Machu Picchu is actually at a lower elevation than Cusco, so if you are concerned about altitude, go to Machu Picchu first. After a day or so, you should be able to easily adjust to the higher altitude of Cusco.
  5. Supplement effectively. Altitude RX is a combination of adaptogenic herbs and antioxidants designed to help your body adjust effortlessly to high altitude. Ginkgo biloba helps the body use the small amount of oxygen in the air more effectively, so you don’t feel the typical symptoms. 

With a bit of preparation for altitude sickness, you can enjoy your amazing trip to Machu Picchu with no concerns.