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Altitude Sickness

Cuenca, Ecuador is situated 2500 metres above sea level. Quite a number of visitors have been zapped by altitude sickness after their arrival. Just hope it won't happen to me as it can incapacitate a person for a number of days. Apparently the symptoms of altitude sickness are insomnia, headaches, and/or nausea.

Key with altitude is to ascend gradually, but obviously with flying that is impossible to do. So just hope lady luck will be smiling on me health wise.

Just checked out remedies and this is what I found. When I get my travel medication together think I'll check whether I can find Diamox in the pharmacy here, or if unavailable will definitely stock up in Ottawa.

In the event that you do experience symptoms of altitude sickness, in most cases, they can be remedied by drinking lots of water, getting lots of rest, and taking aspirin. If you are more than a little fatigued or if you experience mild headaches, taking DIAMOX is an option. DIAMOX is a drug that increases oxygen profusion. You can buy DIAMOX, or its equivalent, in most major cities. If you forget to bring your DIAMOX it is readily available in Quito pharmacies. If you experience severe headaches or respiratory problems (including acute shortness of breath) consult a doctor immediately. One final note with respect to altitude, use sunblock. You may feel cool while high in the Andes, but because of the altitude – you are much closer to the sun – the risk of sunburn is greater. Use a sunblock level rated at least 15 SPF.


Just noticed that there is malaria in Ecuador as well. Checked it out and apparently it is only prevalent in the Northern parts. But am planning to visit the Embassy of Ecuador in Ottawa to check this out, in case I need some malaria medication. I prefer not to have to use malaria medication as I have in the past and some of the medication can make one feel lousy and nauseous.

7 blog comments below

I really don't think you will have a problem if you are flying directly into Cuenca from Ottawa since air plane is pressurized. I can see the altitude affecting those that ascend to that elevation too quickly.
Just don't let any of those bugs bite to avoid malaria. Enjoy your trip.
standready on Thu Aug 30, 2012 9:34 pm
standready wrote:
I really don't think you will have a problem if you are flying directly into Cuenca from Ottawa since air plane is pressurized. I can see the altitude affecting those that ascend to that elevation too quickly.

You wouldn't call functionally moving from ~90m elevation to 2500m elevation at the rate of a door opening too quickly? That's pretty much what happens; you fly in a pressurized cabin that's at a pressure approximately equal to a fairly low elevation, open the door, and suddenly the pressure has dropped considerably, like you've magically teleported from somewhere with high pressure to somewhere with low.

When talking about "ascending gradually", gradual is measured in days, into weeks. The problem is that lungs/blood accustomed to higher air pressure (higher density air, as well) have difficulty extracting enough oxygen from thin air at high elevation, and the changes that are required to exchange gasses efficiently at altitude take time to develop, lots of time. This is why when events like the Olympics are held at high elevations, many participants try to arrive well in advance to acclimatize to the air conditions, so that just walking up stairs doesn't wind them... it's also why athletes from high elevation nations have something of an advantage near sea level; their body is getting way more oxygen than it normally does, increasing efficiency. The body needs to recognize the need for adjustment, then start pumping out haemoglobin like crazy, and increase lung capacity, amongst other changes... it's not quick.
Ankhanu on Fri Aug 31, 2012 12:25 am
Nice Deanhills. Do let us know how your trip will go, along with pictures either in this forum, or at least with links to wherever you post your travel journals.
To that effect, have a great trip, and be safe.
Bon Voyage.
menino on Fri Aug 31, 2012 3:56 am
Thanks Menino and Standready. Another GREAT comment Ankhanu. Just learned much more about how altitude adjustments can affect a person, thanks!
deanhills on Fri Aug 31, 2012 8:36 am
When are you heading out, Dean? I think you may have mentioned the time frame of the trip before, but I forget.

I'm a little jealous of your wide ranging travel experience Wink
Ankhanu on Fri Aug 31, 2012 4:30 pm
Thanks for the clarification, Ankhanu. Dean is heading out either on Monday evening - check his other blog post.
standready on Sat Sep 01, 2012 2:10 am
Standready wrote:
Thanks for the clarification, Ankhanu. Dean is heading out either on Monday evening - check his other blog post.
Sounds GREAT when I read it like this Standready. Can't believe it's almost here. Very Happy

@Ankhanu. I can't believe I'm doing it, from a base of not knowing where to go for my annual holidays, this turned into something really interesting. I'd imagine that for you the Galápagos Islands would be where you would want to be. It was just too expensive for me to tag it on, so my best shot was to stay a few days in Bahia de Caraquez, which is on the Mainland directly opposite the islands. The islands as you probably know involves a flight from the mainland as well as signing up with a cruise ship, all of which is VERY expensive.

I still have not made any bookings past the first Hotel where I'm going to stay in Cuenca, but have my itinerary well researched accommodation wise. I'm just a little worried if I booked everything too meticulously that if I wanted to change my plans slightly when I'm there, I'd be all booked up. September is out of season as far as I know, so will see how it goes. I may just get crazy in the head tomorrow (I usually do couple of days before big travels like this), and then do more bookings. Particularly the one in Bahia de Craquez, the final one in Quito before my departure from Ecuador and the one in Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city. Both Guayaquil and Quito are known for crime and I'd like to be focused when I land in these two cities and not have to scuttle around to find a place to stay in, especially when I can't speak Spanish. Very Happy
deanhills on Sat Sep 01, 2012 7:23 pm

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