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Altitude Sickness Tips
Altitude sickness (known as soroche in Bolivia) in the high altitude of La Paz, Potosi, Uyuni, Lake Titicaca, Peru and the whole Altiplano region is within the zone where altitude illness could become a problem, especially for those arriving from at or near sea level. You should familiarize yourself with the symptoms of altitude sickness and when you arrive you should take it easy for the first few days so you can acclimatize to the altitude.
What Causes Altitude Sickness?At higher elevations there are low oxygen levels. Altitude sickness occurs when you go too high too fast and your body cannot get as much oxygen as it needs or is accustomed too. This causes the headache, lack of hunger and other symptoms of altitude illness.
People arriving from at or near sea level elevations should take extra precautions. Give yourself at least a day or two to acclimatize before doing strenuous activities. (mountain climbing or biking)
Shortness of breath are normal, given lack of oxygen at these heights. Though altitude illness doesn't happen to everyone, some may feel some minor symptoms. As your body gets used to the altitude, the symptoms go away.
The symptoms of altitude sickness include:
Your symptoms may be mild to severe. They may not start until a day after you have been at a high altitude. Many people say altitude sickness feels like having a hangover.
You must be able to recognize the early symptoms of altitude illness, and you should watch carefully for symptoms when you are at risk because altitude sickness can be life threatening.
Altitude sickness is more likely to occur in people who have a previous history of altitude sickness. If you do strenuous activities during your first few days of altitude exposure, and if you have been living at low elevation prior to your climb. Obesity appears to increase the risk of altitude illness, as well as high blood pressure. Genetics may also put some people at increased risk.
If you have symptoms of altitude sickness, avoid alcohol, sleeping pills and narcotic pain medications. All of these can slow your breathing, which is extremely dangerous in low-oxygen conditions.
One of the best way to prevent altitude sickenss is to increase your elevation gradually. For example, maybe starting your Bolivia trip in a medium altitude city such as in Sucre or Cochabamba than moving onto La Paz, instead of going directly to La Paz. Although, this may not always be possible because of airlines flying into Bolivia from other countries usually have their main routes arriving into La Paz.
Also, besides moving to a lower altitude, you can treat mild altitude sickness with rest and pain relievers. There is also altitude sickness medicine that can be prescribed by a doctor.
The best advice is to rest on your first day in the highlands, drink plenty of liquids and avoid alcohol. Also, the local remedy mate de coca, or coca-leaf tea is said to help with the hight altitude.
Many hotels offer oxygen for those affected with severe headaches. If symptoms become more severe, seek medical attention.
Here are a few prevention tips:
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