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INCA TRAIL

ALTITUDE SICKNESS


The traveller that decides to trek along the winding and steep trails that make up the Inca Trail should be in a good physical shape in order to fully enjoy the trip. However, anyone in a normal physical condition should be able to carry out this adventure. More so the reason if he can count on an adequate support.

However, the traveller should never forget that he is visiting the Andes and, thus he should take precautions to avoid altitude sickness. The upward parts are often very steep and the heights to ascend are located between 2000 to 4200 m.a.s.l (6562 ft to 13780 ft).

For this reason, acclimatising plays an important role in any trip to high altitudes.It is considered that under normal conditions, it takes a person approximately 72 hours to acclimatise.

When visiting Cusco, and the Inca Trail, it is necessary to gradually adjust to the altitude in order to avoid the inconvenience of "soroche" or altitude sickness. We recommend carrying a good supply of lemon drops to counteract dehydration and other altitude symptoms.

Altitude sickness or "Soroche"
Also known as acute height sickness, it is a consequence of lack of sufficient oxygen. It usually strikes non-acclimatised persons that ascend above 2000 m.a.s.l (6562 ft). Those travellers that arrive in Cusco by air are more prone to suffer from this.

Symptoms tend to set in within the first 48 hours of the ascension (although sometimes also much later), and include everything from headaches, nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite, shortness of breath, sleep alterations, vertigo, palpitations and problems to concentrate, even the risk of acute oedema of the lung.

Prevention
The best way to prevent "soroche" is to make a gradual ascension. If the visitor has the time and is able to spend the first nights in the Sacred Valley, he (or she) will be less prone to suffer from altitude sickness.

It is very important that those that arrive in Cusco carry out their activities gradually. We recommend that you rest the first day, eat little and only light food, and enjoy the delicious coca leaf tea.

As a preventive measure, but always observing any counter indications, one can take two to three daily pills of Acetazolamide (125- 250mg), starting 48 hours before the ascension until 48 hours after reaching the top.

Another efficient way to counteract altitude sickness is to take 4mg of Dexametasone every six hours always starting 48 hours before the ascension and during the stay at high altitudes.

Treatment

If "soroche" sets in spite of taking preventive measures it is important to drink lots of liquid. Paracetamol is ideal against headaches and Coramina helps to limit the effects of nausea. Once again, Acetazolamide (250 mg) taken orally two or four times a day is very efficient to combat the illness and to speed up acclimatising.

It is always best to consult a physician in all cases and to observe the counter-indications. Do not wait until feeling very ill before asking for oxygen. It can be found in some hotels, most pharmacies and in hospitals.

Water

During the Inca Trail, it is better to drink only boiled or bottled water during the day, and in the evenings and at night, regular, herbal or coca leaf tea. We do not recommend drinking from the streams because there is a risk that they might be contaminated by a parasite called Giardia originating from the local cattle, which will affect your stomach and intestines.

There are no food service outlets available on the trail, thus the importance of carrying enough food for three days. We recommend the hiring of local porters.

Toilets are available along the trail, as well as indicated camping sites. Follow the signs and, above all, do not litter the trail. The climate is liable to changes during the climb.

ALTITUDES
Cusco: 3360 m.a.s.l (9346 ft)
Macchu Picchu: 2400 m.a.s.l (6676 ft)
Urubamba Valley: 2850 m.a.s.l (7927 ft).





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