Ecuador is home to some incredible peaks, making it a heaven for climbers and hikers who love spectacular views. Even the capital of the country, Quito, is located about 9,350 feet above sea level. The only downside of this is that the traveler who arrives in the country, especially by plane, runs a risk of developing altitude sickness. To make sure that this condition doesn’t ruin your trip, you need to take some precautions and spend your first couple of days in Ecuador slowly exploring the beauties of Quito.
What Is Altitude Sickness and How Dangerous Is It?
Altitude sickness occurs when a human being is rapidly elevated over 8,000 feet. This condition only becomes life-threatening in extreme situations as it can lead to high-altitude pulmonary edema. However small, that risk means you need to seek medical assistance if you experience the symptoms of altitude sickness getting g severe.
The symptoms to watch out for are:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness (call for a doctor immediately)
Experiencing several of the symptoms at one, especially the neurological ones (dizziness, confusion, etc.) means you need to look for a medic right away. A mild reaction to your change in elevation when arriving to Ecuador is perfectly normal.
Bear in mind that your physical fitness level has no bearing in the development of altitude sickness. This means that being fit won’t protect you from it. The researchers have yet to find a clear marker that will determine if a human will develop the condition. This means that you can’t know if you or your travel companions will get it once you arrive in Ecuador. Therefore, you should plan your trip in a way that will allow you to manage the condition effectively.
How to Treat Altitude Sickness During a Trip to Ecuador
The best treatment for altitude sickness is to let your body get used to the high altitude gradually. This means that you should stick to Quito for a couple of days after arriving to the country and just take it easy. Any strenuous physical activity should be avoided, but you should get some fresh air. This means this will be the perfect time to enjoy some free walking tours in Quito. You should also start enjoying the local cuisine as you’ll need to take frequent breaks during your exploration of the city. Stay away from alcohol during these first days.
It’s essential to stay hydrated when dealing with altitude sickness. Therefore, you should always have a water bottle on hand. This is even more important if you decide to go higher up into the mountains.
Ibuprofen and some other medications like dexamethasone and acetazolamide can be used to treat the symptoms of mild altitude sickness. Please be aware that if the issues become severe, you should seek medical help immediately. Acute cases require oxygen therapy and specialized treatments that you can only get in a hospital. Timely intervention is essential, so be on your guard if you’ve experienced altitude sickness before.
In case you get an onset of it while exploring up in the mountains, you’ll need to go down fast. Make sure that our traveling companions know exactly how to act and what to watch out for.
Be aware that drinking too much water can have a negative effect at high altitudes. This can lower your sodium level beyond 135mmol/L. The symptoms that occur in this case are similar to high altitude sickness. They include concentration issues, headaches, and nausea. The condition can also cause poor balance, which is a serious problem if you plan to do some mountain climbing.
Overall, to make sure that altitude sickness doesn’t ruin your trip to Ecuador, you simply need to be aware of it and avoid pushing your body if the condition does occur.