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a VirtualTourist member from North Carolina


Oxygen bottles for high altitude sickness?

When we went hiking in China (some places above 4,000 m), there were compressed oxygen in bottles/canisters for sale. Though I just felt a bit headache (hiking rapidly up to about 3,900 m) and did not try the oxygen, many others were using them. They said that they felt great, but they were hiking in a very leisurely pace. Since the whole cause of the high altitude sickness is lack of oxygen, my question: is there any such thing available in Peru, i.e., can anyone buy any oxygen bottle/canister somewhere in Cusco, Puno/Lake Titicaca, etc if needed? I have not seen any one mentioned. If not, could anyone recommend a place, e.g., sports store (or online) from which one can buy it from USA,? Thanks for any advice!

11 Answers

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Kuala Lumpur

For your information, you dont need a oxygen bottle up Cusco thats why no one mentions it. What I did on my trip to Cusco is to get a bottle of pills called Diamox. Take half a pill, in Lima one hour before flying to Cusco you will just be fine. You dont even need to rest once you get to Cusco. Thats my experience. You can get Diamox in US only through a doctors prescription. On the other hand you can get it in any Pharmacy in Lima. Dont worry to much, enjoy Cusco because you are going to have a great time. Cheers Dinesh.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Bronx

Maybe my experience in Cusco years ago was a little different. Soon after landing I was developing sort of a vague headache radiating down to the back of my neck. That's "siroche" (spelling?) or altitude sickness. The woman who owned the small hotel I was staying at prepared a "mate de coca" or tea made from coca leaves. Within an hour I was just fine and had no more problems as my body acclimated to the altitude.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Newport

Aspirin is a good and cheaper alternative to diamox and cheaper still than bottled oxygen and you don't need a prescription for it. the best way to avoid altitude sickness is to acclimatise yourself, stay a couple of days at altitude before climbing higher. When I trekked in the Moroccan Atlas I only suffered from a headache just once for which I took Aspirin. I also took Aspirin before the "assault" on Jebel Toubkal (4167m). Diamox is only really necessary if you are climbing extremely big mountains e.g. anything of Kilimanjaro size or over anything less and Aspirin will suffice, forget the bottled oxygen it's a gimmick!

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from England

I agree with the above, but would like to add that to suppress the symptoms of altitude sickness may give you the illusion that you are well enough to continue higher, but this may not be the case. Ive been to just below 6000m without so much as a headache and without using any medicines or supplements but by just acclimatising slowly. Its the only sure way of going up safe. Have a great trip. Chris

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Lima

No bottle of oxygen is necessary, and no such thing is also sold at any town with high altitude in Peru. The natural actions to prevent soroche or any sickness related to altitude is drinking your mate de coca before your departure, and resting at home if you finally get it. Besides, Cusco is not that high (the highest point, Chincheros, is around 3800 m.), so you'll have more probabilities to suffer from lack of oxygen if you do the inca trail or extremely demanding hiking/trekking activities. Just arrive, get your coca tea and enjoy your stay :-)

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Alameda

Yes, altitude does weird things to your body, entirely apart from the lack of oxygen. Different people react differently, so unless you have experience at high altitudes there's no way to preduct how your body will adjust. One thing: the airlines probably won't let you carry your own supply of bottled oxygen from the US.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Lima

Most probably, you wont get anything. In case you get altitude sickness or "zoroche" you have to grab your coca leaves at once. Mate de coca is quite famous for these, everybody does it, but it doesnt work best as chewing the leaves. Ask any of the guides to provide it to you. Me and my friends have donde a lot of trekking in different parts of Perus Sierra. We all prepare th e following: wrap some 3 or 4 coca leavez to a power rock and just suck the juice of the little coca ball, as you walk (IF YOU DONT HAVE THE ROCK JUST DO IT WITHOUT IT, ITS ALSO GOOD). Coca leaves will not only make you feel aclimatated, but also strong, energetical and mentally agile. The "chasquis" were Inca mail-mans that runned to deliver messages from one Cuzco city to another (huge 500km or plus kilometre distances). The only thing they did during that running was: chew coca leave. Just go on the guide and say: "Quiero hojas de coca para chak-char por favor" (I want coca leaves to chew please). Any additional help just tell me. Good trip and have a good one!

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Bronx

So far we have 3 different spellings for "siroche" or "soroche". I think probably soroche is the most valid as in the following quote from "CuscoOnLine"... "También conocido como mal agudo de altura, es básicamente consecuencia de la falta de oxígeno. Ocurre habitualmente en personas no aclimatadas que ascienden por encima de los 2,000 m.s.n.m. en menos de 1 ó 2 días. El turista que llega al Cusco en avión es el más propenso a sufrir soroche. Los síntomas suelen ocurrir dentro de las primeras 48 horas del ascenso (aunque también mucho después) e incluyen desde dolor de cabeza, náuseas, vómitos, falta de apetito, sensación de ahogo, alteraciones del sueño, vértigo, palpitaciones y problemas de concentración hasta edema agudo de pulmón."

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Molenbeersel

Like people said here, it's person depended, I didn't get any problems with the height except gasping for air when I was not acclimatised. (Coming from 2.000 meter with a bus to 4.000 meter). Ones acclimatised you should be fine. Two people of our group got headache and one got diarrhoea. But they recovered after a few days. Matte de Coca helps also for the height disease, but don't expect miracles from it. It helps in the mild cases and helps you recover and it's nice to drink. The most important thing is built up the height slowly, don't start immediately in Cusco and if you do, take some time before you do any heavy exercises like hiking. But you already know that because you hiked in China on the high altitudes. We did the Inca Trail with a company and they have oxygen bottles with them for these kinds of events. So ask the tour company if they have them. The highest point of the Inca trail is 4.200 metres after a climb of 1.200 metres, that can be the most tricky part. Like Peter said, there is no airline who will carry that bottled oxygen for you. One is not allowed to carry items under pressure into an airplane, so you will have to contact the airline about that. Chewing the coca leaves as stated can help, but the Inca runners use a catalyst (the power rock as stated higher) to get the effect described. Just chewing on them has not the same effect.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Norwich

I agree with Chris, you need to listen to your body, Altitude sickness can be severe, so if are not responding to the simpler remedies you need to get lower, as fast as you can, not continue on reqardless.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Quebec

About diamox, I know that 4 years ago, some physician considered it as a drug that need to be taken with caution. So, I would first check with a reliable pharmacist. The acclimatation is a great way. A way is to start by one day around 2 500 meters, than yo go up,maybe for 500 meters a day, making sure that you get at a lower altitude to sleep. It also force you to take some time in other location instead of rushing. It brought me to Arequipa, which I enjoyed very much. I hope not to be rude in disagreeing about oxygen. I saw some bottle in bus used to tour the Cañon de Colca, while there were no bottle at the highest point of the Inca trail. A woman who travelled directly from Lima to Cuzco, than the next day to the trail, got ill out of altitude sickness. I think the guides should share some oxygen bottles for fainting peoples at the highest point, and replace the one they woould use on the next trip. It would be a good way to keep their tourists feeling safe. Although I admit, the hill is so steep that it was possible to rush her down which get her able to walk after 1 hour. Still, it wasn't the nicest thing to see. This is still the most important thing to remember, if you feel bad, go down, for 500 meters or so.

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