As soon as people book their trip to Peru, specifically Cusco, they start worrying about altitude sickness. Especially for those who plan to hike to Machu Picchu. Some people wonder why it happens, what is happening to their body and how to prevent it. Here is some information about altitude sickness.
The air at high altitudes contains less oxygen than at sea level. Your body has to work harder to get the oxygen it needs. Over several days at high altitude, your body adjusts to the lower amount of oxygen in the air.
Many people travel from sea level to mountain altitudes of 6,000 to 10,000 feet and start vigorous physical activity right away. Not giving the body time to adjust to the higher elevation can cause altitude sickness.
Certain health factors increase the risk of altitude sickness. These include:
Many people who are physically fit assume they won't get altitude sickness because they are in good shape. However, being in good shape does not protect against altitude sickness.
Pulmonary or cerebral altitude edema may start out as a milder form of altitude sickness. It may then worsen into one of these more serious problems. But sometimes the edema occurs without the usual symptoms of mountain sickness.
With altitude sickness, you may first feel like you have the flu or a hangover. You may have:
If you have pulmonary edema, excess fluid builds up in your lungs. You may become short of breath and start coughing. It may become very hard for you to breathe. You may cough up pink mucous.
When you have high-altitude cerebral edema, your brain swells. You may become confused and disoriented. You may feel weak, lose your sense of balance, or have trouble seeing.
To prevent altitude sickness:
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