Altitude Sickness - What You Need to Know - Love the Search
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24 Mar Altitude Sickness – What You Need to Know

Today I reached my limit — 5,000 meters above sea level to be exact. I never thought it would happen to me, I thought I was pretty healthy. As we ascended to the glaciers of Pastoruri in the Cordillera Blanca of Peru, I slowly began to gasp for air.

I felt heaviness on my chest, the kind that you feel right before you’re about to burst in tears. Like a 200 pound rock pinning me down, making it impossible for me to breathe, or speak in any language. The cold pierced through every inch of my body. I was wearing 4 layers of clothing, yet I felt as if my bare skin was exposed to the frigid temperatures. I lost sensation in my hands and feet. My ears started hurting, my brain felt like it was about to explode in a million pieces.

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Apparently, altitude sickness doesn’t discriminate. Your age, gender or fitness level are irrelevant, some people are simply unable to acclimatize to higher places as well as others. Many people need a few days or a week to feel normal. During a hike, the best remedy is always to descent to lower altitude if you start feeling any of the symptoms.

I thought about pushing myself, and hike until the very last stop when I saw an ambulance drive past me.I realized, this is no longer mind over matter. Every human being has his/her own physical limitations and I’ve clearly reached mine. If I ignore the warning signs, I’ll be risking my life every step of the way, in a very literal sense. Exactly eight years ago, on a Maundy Thursday, my father reached his at 78 years old.

Today I am humbled, thanking the universe for letting me see these beautiful glaciers, if only for a brief glimpse before they disappear forever.

.  altitude sickness, ams, high elevation, hike, laguna 69, pastoruri, huaraz, huascaran, peru, latin america

 

Here are some tips on how to avoid altitude sickness:

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1   Acclimatize your body for a few days before your big hike. Don’t drive up from sea level and expect to hike the next day.

2  Exercise as usual, do some yoga and pranayama to prepare.

3  Drink lots of liquids, avoid alcohol and caffeine. Mate de coca is the popular drink of choice in Peru.

4  Grab a bottle of Oxishot, basically it’s 100% pure oxygen in a bottle. Take a few breaths once you feel the first symptoms of altitude sickness like nausea, headache, shortness of breath, ear pain, pressure on chest. Repeat as needed.

5   There are several medications that you can take many different ways. Some, you’ll have to take 8 hours before ascent, and every 8 hours after. I’m no doctor so I’d rather not prescribe any brands here to be on the safe side, so feel free to do your own research.

 

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On my next high altitude trip to the Colca Canyon, I took Soroji pills, the most popular and advertised over the counter brand in local pharmacies. It cost 16 soles for a pack of 10 capsules. I took it 8 hours before my ascending, and took it every 8 hours until I started feeling better and didn’t need it any longer. I used it together with my bottle of Oxishot, which I felt relieved my symptoms quicker.

Have you ever experienced altitude sickness? What helped you relieve your symptoms?

 

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