What is altitude sickness?
Let’s start by looking at what high altitude means. High altitude starts to have an effect on our bodies from between 1,500m – 2,000m (4921ft – 6561ft) when our bodies start to react differently to make up for the changes in oxygen levels.
So, as you go higher the air pressure gets lower (the air gets ‘thinner’) so that for every breath there will be less oxygen for your body. Your body gradually adapts to getting less oxygen – you breathe faster and deeper and the body produces more red blood cells. This takes time so this is why if you go from low to high alitude too quickly, you may feel symptoms of altitude sickness until your body acclimatises.
Cusco is located at an altitude of 3,400 metres (11,200ft) and it is common for many visitors to experience some mild symptoms of altitude sickness or ‘soroche’ as it is known locally. It’s hard to tell if you will be affected by altitude sickness as some people can be more susceptible than others regardless of age, sex or physical condition.
How might altitude sickness affect my trip?
Mild altitude sickness should not interfere too much with your normal activity. Symptoms are usually felt within 12 – 24 hours of arrival and tend to subside within 3 days. If you continue to feel unwell ask your hotel to call you a doctor as more severe reactions may require medical attention. Many hotels provide coca tea or ‘mate de coca’ to guests and they also have oxygen available to help you acclimatise.