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altitude sickness

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chicago, ill
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altitude sickness

Any advise to prevent altitude sickness? Going to Lake titicaca next year. Thanks

WA
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1. Re: altitude sickness

Spent 6 months in Bolivia this year. Never had a problem. I recommend to take it easy at first. If you are immediately checking into a hotel ask for some local tea. This helps for some folks.

Have a great trip (the Peruvian side of the lake is much nicer).

New York
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2. Re: altitude sickness

First thing's first: Make sure that you reserve the first couple of days for pure relaxation. Do not plan any type of strenuous activity like hiking because your body will definitely give into the altitude sickness. You have to allow your body to adjust to the high altitude so consider doing some low-level sightseeing or just getting acquainted with your surroundings. I highly recommend going to a pharmacy as soon as you get settled into your accomdations and buying "Sorocji" pills (not sure of the spelling) which are sold by unit (meaning you can buy just 1 or 2 pills or however many you think you'll need) or the whole bottle. You don't need a prescription for them b/c they're as popular over there as cold medecine is in the US. Also, note that they're only available in Bolivia (as far as I know) so they're not something you can purchase or ask your doctor at home beforehand. If you choose not to take the Sorocji pills, you can always try some "Mate de Coca" (coca tea) which is probably available at your hotel or your local coffee shop. My family always waits for me at the airport with a thermos of Mate de Coca so that I won't succumb to altitude sickness immediately. You'll feel the high altitude the minute you get off the plane (not an exagerration). Whether or not you choose to take medication or drink some tea, it is very important that you give your body enough time to acclimate itself to the high altitude. If you do that, you'll be just fine. Happy Traveling!

Boston...
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3. Re: altitude sickness

I agree that "mate de coca" is wonderful for adapting to the altitude. I always stop at the little coffee shop in the airport for a cup as soon as I arrive.

In my opinion, the biggest determinate for whether or not one will be affected by the altitude is where they are coming from. If you go first to somewhere like Cochabamba (8,000 feet), then when you go to La Paz (12,500 at the airport) you will be less affected than if you arrive from Miami or some other sea level city. Your best defense against altitude sickness is to stop somewhere on your way to La Paz to acclimate your body to a mid-level altitude.

One reason why mate de coca works, in my opinion, is because it keeps you hydrated. I have read that for your first few days at high altitude, until your body can produce more red blood cells, you breathe more to get more oxyigen. Every time you exhale, you exhale a minute amount of water vapor. More breaths means more water loss. I have had good luck at avoiding altitude sickness by buying a two-liter bottle of water when I first arrive, and then drinking the whole thing the first day. And then doing the same thing the next day.

Sorojche pills are nothing more than caffene and aspirin. The caffene speeds up the heart, thus giving you more oxygen, and the aspirin deadens any pain.

London
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4. Re: altitude sickness

drink lots of water and avoid alcohol as the hang over can be hell even after only 1 drink!! 8from experience of 2 glasses of wine with a meal!)

they say to eat little, drink lots and walk slowly.

i had it quite bad but you can also drink lots of coca tea or mate de coca which really helps but the taste is not very nice! it is available everywhere though.

Washington, DC
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5. Re: altitude sickness

definetely have the "mate de coca"

Buenos Aires...
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6. Re: altitude sickness

When I went to Bolivia, someone told me to take a caffein aspirin per day, starting a week before departure. As a result, I didn't have altitude sickness while in La Paz.

Argentina
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7. Re: altitude sickness

I am from Argentina and I`ve been recently to La PAz with a group of women in their 60^s and none of them had problems, but just in case, I have got some puna caps or sorojlchi pills which are sold any Pharmacy in Bolivia. Have always some in your bag... JUST IN CASE... Most of the altitude sickness is caused because we are expecting to be ill. Have a nice time.

Giena

Byron Bay
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8. Re: altitude sickness

Hi Imtravelynne, don't let anyone tell you that it is all in your mind!!!!

We met people who had to cut their trip short to the higher altitudes because they were so sick and many others who were very ill for several days and then again, others who suffered no problems. We even met people who had travelled regularly to high altitudes without ever having problems and who had become ill for the first time in 20 years.

We were given very expensive altitude sickness tablets from home (Australia) by prescription which we took after we got moderate altitude sickness. We felt like we had a bad hangover and jet lag rolled into one. We slept, vomited, and rested for a day and were much better the next day. In hindsight and after talking to many others, it would have been better to take the sorochi pills (very cheap and available everywhere) right from the start. Everyone we met who took this approach did not have any problems.

We couldn't avoid it but we went straight from sea level to La Paz, Boliva - quite an altitude shock to the system.

Chevy Chase...
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9. Re: altitude sickness

I'm an American medical anthropologist working with Clinica IPPA (altitudeclinic.com) in La Paz. The clinic specializes in high altitude pathology research (and it's a good place to come see if you really get sick). While altitude sickness can be in your mind, but most often that's not the case. It's almost impossible to predict who will be affected. World class athletes have fainted, while cough potatoes have partied from day one of arrival with no adverse affects. Oxygen is definitely harder to come by at these altitudes for your system, so most people will feel something. Start drinking lots of water before your trip and plan to drink a good 2 liters a day while you're here. Absolutely no alcohol for one or two days before your trip (avoid those bon voyage parties...) and none for 24-48 hours after your arrival. Eat lightly for the first day or so, simple small meals. Resist the temptation to go sightseeing the first day, unless it's in a cab. Forget the soroche pills they sell here - it's just aspirin and caffeine. Bring Tylenol or your favorite NSAID in case you get a headache. (Generically you can get Tylenol here as paracetamol). Dress warmly when it's cold outside. For more info, check out the website above.

Chevy Chase...
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10. Re: altitude sickness

Ah right... forgot the time-honored altitude relief: mate de coca. Available everywhere. Ask your hotel to fix you a cup or two on arrival. Drink it all you want as needed. Carry a few tea bags with you, or buy it bulk in raw leaf form in the street markets to share with fellow travelers or as an appreciated gift to locals in the highlands. By the way, I've brought in small quantities of mate de coca tea bags on multiple trips to the States. Just don't try to overdo it with a case of the stuff. You might also try trimate, a blend of coca, manzanilla (camomile) and anise... great for digestion.