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Altitude Sickness

Brighton, UK
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172 posts
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Altitude Sickness

I am very concerned regarding the lack of information and awareness of some travellers to the Salar de Uyuni with regard to altitude sickness. We had a chap in our four-wheel drive who got serious altitude and was coughing up blood and could not breathe. Luckily we had a doctor in our party and he recognised the symptoms of a pulmonary problem. If it had not been for his quick action in getting the chap to hospital in Santa Cruz, he would have died. He had to be flown by private plane and was on oxygen for the duration of the journey. I feel travel agents and trip organisers should ensure that travellers are given the right information to prevent this situation happening. I was well aware of the problem and was taking Diamox to avert altitude sickness.

Calgary, Canada
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1,474 posts
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1. Re: Altitude Sickness

Good points; there wasn't much mention about altitude sickness when we went either. Coming from San Pedro de Atacama (~2000m) can be especially bad, as the first night is spent at Laguna Colorada (~4200m). Like yourself, I took diamox to help acclimatize, and ended up giving some to others in our 4x4 who were suffering a lot more than me.

Pretty impressive that he was able to organize a private plane in that remote area though.

Sydney, Australia
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2. Re: Altitude Sickness

Is Diamox something that you can find easily in Bolivia (La Paz for ex.) or would you recommend getting some before leaving for South America? We will be in Cuzco before traveling through Bolivia and Uyuni and I'm beginning to get worried about altitude sickness. Thanks.

Calgary, Canada
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1,474 posts
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3. Re: Altitude Sickness

I'm not sure about the availability of Diamox, as I brought some from home. You could probably find it in La Paz, but less likely in a place like Uyuni (unless you get it from a fellow traveler).

Starting from Cusco will probably work better, as it is at a lower elevation than La Paz and Uyuni, which will make your acclimatization more gradual.

Santa Cruz, Bolivia
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61 posts
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4. Re: Altitude Sickness

In Bolivia we call altitude pills "SOROCHI PILLS" and they can be purchased at almost any pharmacy without a prescription.

It is also advisable to rest on your first day, eat very little, drink extra amounts of water, and do not smoke or drink alcohol as this will dehydrate you.

Personally, the one thing that has worked the best for me is a cup of coca tea as soon as I get off the plane, before I get into a cab and go anywhere. Coca leaf tea calms the stomach and prevents headaches. It also helps prevent shortness of breath. (Té de coca which comes in teabags like any other normal tea - which is not the same as MATE de coca, which is the crushed leaves sucked up through a straw).

Many, many travel sites post information about the altitude, its negative effects, how to overcome or avoid them, how to prepare in advance, and specifically list SOROCHI PILLS.

I think sometimes Bolivians forget to mention the altitude not out of neglect, but because it isn't a problem for them so it doesn't occur to them to mention it. But I agree - tour operators should take precautions and specially study what their VISITORS might need. Of course, as tourists it is also our obligation to study up before traveling to any destination.

5. Re: Altitude Sickness

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manchester
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6. Re: Altitude Sickness

I have no other choice than fly directly into La Paz from Chile and after reading some posts am quite worried as it sounds like MOST people get struck down with some level of altitude sickness. i have the diamox tablets now from the doctor- im not sure whether they just make you feel better or cover up the symptoms that could lead into HACE or HAPE (the severe forms of altitude sickness). sorochi i have heard are a little hit and miss. If I need to descent (as I didnt realise that flying into La Paz is going to be such a hard adaption to the system) is there a place I can go to if symptoms persist? It says to descent immediately- where is a near town at lower level??

many thanks

7. Re: Altitude Sickness

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8. Re: Altitude Sickness

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NYC
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639 posts
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9. Re: Altitude Sickness

A high altitude research / medical center in La Paz.

http://www.altitudeclinic.com/index.html

UK
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10. Re: Altitude Sickness

Just want to add ... if you possibly possibly can spend some time at high altitude before heading to Uyuni, do! Even just spending a few days in La Paz where it's lower, and easy to get medical help would really help you to acclimatise - it is a bad idea to go straight to Uyuni from low altitudes.