The human body experiences changes in its normal functioning when traveling to places above 2,400 m.a.s.l. One of these changes is the so-called altitude sickness known by different names depending on the country you are visiting. In Peru it is popularly known by the name of ‘Soroche’ and is very common among travelers arriving in cities like Cusco.
What is Soroche?
Aaltitude sickness or soroche is caused by the lower atmospheric pressure at high altitudes, at greater heights there is less and less oxygen concentration in the air, which results in a direct consequence in the amount of oxygen stored in the blood, therefore the different organs of the body receive less oxygen as usual.
The human body transports and distributes the oxygen throughout the body through the red blood cells present in the blood, this function is significantly altered when at altitudes above 2 400 meters above sea level
What are the Soroche symptoms?
One of the organs of the body that is most affected by poor oxygen supply is the brain. among others symptoms usually are headaches, acute dizziness, shortness of breath and a feeling of disorientation comparable to being drunk after drinking alcohol. The most serious symptoms may include difficulty when breathing while in a state of rest, blue or purple coloration of the skin and in extremely severe cases, which are not frequent, brain or pulmonary edema and death can occur.
How to deal with Soroche
The soroche or altitude sickness has no established cure but the human being has lived in high places for thousands of years, so the remedies are well known and practiced.
- The first recommendation is to reduce the rhythm of the body, that is, to walk more slowly, to climb steps one by one, avoiding at all times puting the body under extra estress due to it is already in a state of crisis due to the lack of oxygen.
- The human body normally becomes used to altitude after 2 or 3 days, this varies depending on many factors, such as age, physical condition and tolerance for lack of oxygen. This gradual process is known as acclimatization, and once the body has become accustomed, physical activities can be carried out with total normality.
- Food is a very important factor to consider if it is the first time you travel to high altitudes places such as Cusco or if you are particularly sensitive to altitude sickness. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, Andean cereals such as kiwicha and quinoa helps the body stay stable. Avoid very spicy or high-fat foods at all times because digestion at high altitudes is different.
- Stay hydrated by drinking water (2 or 3 liters per day per person) to successfully overcome the acclimatization stage.
- The coca leaf was considered sacred by the Empire of the Incas and this was not only part of their beliefs but was based on the extraordinary natural qualities of the bush. Studies carried out on the coca leaf have shown that this plant, in addition to having the alkaloid known as cocaine (less than 1% of the total), also has 15 other alkaloids, many of them are natural regulators of the body's cycles, others are stimulants for the production of certain substances, which makes the coca leaf a great alternative if you want to relieve the body from altitude sickness symptoms.
- There are some pills called 'Sorojchi Pills' that one can buy at any pharmacy in Cusco without a prescription and that help significantly reduce the most uncomfortable symptoms of altitude sickness (dizziness, fatigue, headache).
- There are also oxygen tubes that one can buy in hotels or in some pharmacies. These oxygen tubes allow you to breathe as if you were at a height of 100 meters above sea level.
Highest locations in Cusco:
- Ausangate mountain, south of Cusco. Height 6 384 m.a.s.l
- Salkantay mountain, north of Cusco. Height 6 261 m.a.s.l
- Inca Trail, Warmihuañuska mountain pass. Height 4 200 m.a.s.l.
- Malaga mountain pass, Southeast of Cusco. Height 4 297 m.a.s.l
- Pirhuayani mountain pass, Southeast of Cusco. Height 4 725 m.a.s.l