Peru-Travel. Info – Altitude Sickness

Part I : Prepare yourself for travelling to high elevations

Basic Concepts

It is well kown that  at  high  elevations, the amount  of oxygen in the atmosphere, percentage-wise,  is the same as at sea level.  But when barometric  pressures  diminish,  so  does  the  pressure of oxygen present in tissues (thereby causing Hypoxia).

This physical  phenomenon explains  why the  quantity of  oxygen molecules  per breath  inhaled  is lower at higher elevations than it is at sea  level.  Faced with  this type  of challenge,  individuals  evolve acclimatization  procedures  that  engage  most  of  their  systems: respiratory,  blood & circulatory,  renal, and nervous.  The evolved physiological mechanisms tend to normalize the amount of oxygen in their tissues.

For there to be normal activity, an adequate supply of oxygen must first be secured. Peripheral chemoreceptors, or nerve endings, serve as sensors of the amount of oxygen that enters into the bloodstream. Nerve endings swiftly react to changes of oxygen pressure in arterial blood, and inform the nervous centers that control breathing  and cardiac cycles.  This information brings about a progressive increase in pulmonary  ventilation, which  can be observed  during the  first  few days at  high elevations (03 to 05 days).  This process is called “Ventilatory Acclimatization.” Concentrations  of Non-adrenaline  and Adrenaline  in the blood increase.  This  brings  about a rise in cardiac frequency, regardless of whether the individual is in repose or working out.

If the exposure to high altitudes is long enough, the first adaptation strategies – respiratory  and cardiovascular  adjustments – give  way to less  strenuous  mechanisms – mainly an increased production of red  blood cells – that improve  the transport   of  oxygen  from the environment into the tissues. Adaptive reactions to high elevations may cause certain disorders, however, either by the over-functioning or under-functioning of the mechanisms involved in the acclimatization to high elevations.

These disorders can  be avoided by following the recommendations set forth im the  article  about The Soroche. The time and quality of the acclimatization  process varies  from person  to person.  It has nothing to do with previous physical training, or the number of times a person has been in high elevations.

If you have to travel to elevations higher than 3,500 meters (11,480 feet) above sea level and have to stay there, it’s very important to prevent the onset of two distinctive pathologies produced by high elevations: pulmonary edema or brain edema.

These pathologies  can manifest  themselves in people  intolerant to high elevations – mainly the first week – but can be avoided by being aware of what their initial symptoms are, and stopping them from fully developing.

MEDICATION (Always better to ask your personal doctor)

Acetazolamide (NC.Diamox)
1 tablet every 12 hours, 24 hours before the trip.
Half a tablet every 12 hours until the third day in high elevations

1 tablet every 8 hours, in case of headache.

1 400 mg pill  before  the trip  and in  case  of  headaches that don’t lessen with Paracetamol, take one Ibuprofen every 12 hours after meals (it may produce stomach ache).

In case of continued altitude sickness, seek medical help. You must receive oxygen or be promptly removed to a lower elevation.

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