If you are thinking about traveling to Ecuador and visiting the Andes, you may have thought about altitude sickness and how it may affect you. It’s definitely an important topic to consider because Quito, the capital of Ecuador, where most international visitors first land it’s located at 2850 meters above sea level. Sounds high? Well this elevation may be way higher than the place where you live but no worries because it’s actually the perfect elevation at which visitors can adjust to the altitude before going higher in the country.
Keep reading to find out how to deal with the altitude and still have an enjoyable trip, which I promise you will 😉
What is altitude sickness
It’s a condition caused by getting exposed to high altitude without previously acclimatizing to the increase in elevation. It can occur in mountain areas above 2,500 meters where oxygen levels are lower than at sea level.
Most common signs and symptoms
If you experience altitude sickness you may feel:
Shortness of breath
Loss of appetite
Nausea or vomiting
These are considered mild symptoms and you may feel them at elevations ranging from 2500 meters up to 3500 meters approximately. In fact, these are the typical symptoms that most travelers feel when they visit Quito. However, those who experience altitude sickness usually adjust to the altitude after 2 or 3 days.
The importance of climbing gradually
Altitude sickness is caused by getting to a high elevation too fast, so hence the importance of a gradual climb in order to get acclimatized. Your body usually needs a few days to get used to a change in altitude.
So, if you plan to visit the mountains and volcanoes in the Andes it would be important to stay in Quito for a couple of days prior to going further up. Then, your body will have time to adjust to the altitude and you will have the energy to go hiking in places like the Cotopaxi National Park!
What to do if you have altitude sickness
Following some simple tips will help a lot overcome altitude sickness or even preventing it once you are in a high elevation place but have no symptoms. The recommendations are:
Drink plenty of water
Rest as much as possible
Do not go any higher for the next 48 hours
Eat small portions rather than a big meal
Do not exercise
Avoid drinking alcohol and don’t smoke
Always remember: Tell your tour leader or traveler companion about how you feel, altitude sickness shouldn’t be ignored. Rarely, symptoms may persist and in that case it’s very important to descend in altitude.
Now, I’d love to read your comments. Or if you have questions about this prior to your trip I would be very happy to answer them.