A Practical Guide Into Acclimatization

What is acclimatisation?

The term itself means adaptation to a new climate ( higher altitude, a change in the temperature, humidity, etc) allowing the organism to maintain the physical performance.

How long does it take to acclimatise?

1-3 days, or even more, depending on the altitude. Ideally after 3000m (10 000 ft) you should climb only 300m a day and if you feel altitude sickness, descend 500m.

What is what happens to the body above 2500m?

To work at optimum performance, the body needs between 17.5% oxygen.

How much oxygen is in the air?

The air has about 20.9% oxygen, but starting with 2100 m the quantity of oxygen starts decreasing as follows:

  • 2100 m – 3500 m (7000 ft – 11500 ft)=> 19.4%
  • 3500 -6000 m (11500 ft – 20000 ft) => 17.9-16.6%
  • 6000m – 8000 m (20000 ft – 26000 ft) => 16 – 15.4%
  • above 8000m (26000ft) => under 15%.

What is altitude sickness?

Since the human body works the best at the sea level altitude. When the level of oxygen drops, the body tries to adapt to the lower levels of oxygen in the air. Then is when one gets some of the following symptoms: nausea, fatigue, headache, diarrhoea, difficulty in sleeping, loss of appetite, rapid pulse, etc.

How are the altitude sickness pills work?

There are 3 main altitude sickness types of pills: soroche pills (aspiring mixed with caffeine), the Acetazolamide and Dexamethasone (which is a steroid). There are other derivations of them that you’ll find available in pharmacies. In the pharmacies you’ll be recommended to use the first ones. Less side effects, but not that efficient either. The connoisseurs recognise only the Acetazolamide as the only real altitude sickness pills.

How to acclimatise correctly?

  1. Increase the altitude gradually: Don’t go directly from 800m to 4000m (13000 ft) – e.g.: landing in La Paz(4200m – 14000ft) after taking off from Amsterdam (sea level)
  2. Climb to a higher altitude, then descend a bit and climb again. A good example for this will be: let’s say you go from Lima (sea Level) to Arequipa (2500m – 8000ft). The you can do the Colca Canyon hike which will mean you go till 3200m where the trail starts. You may feel the altitude sickness, but since the trail descends, you’ll start feeling better. The bottom of the canyon is at about 2300m, so will be no problem for you. Next morning
  3. Give your body at least 2-3 days to acclimatise in a certain place
  4. Walk. When you reached a high altitude don’t just go to sleep even if you feel tired. Go for a walk. Exercising will help your body to circulate etc and to oxygenate.
  5. Get fit before traveling to high altitude. A healthy and fit body will have it easier to adjust to the changes in the environment, than one which has to carry some extra kilos.

What to consider when hiking in high altitudes:

  • You remember they say which tells you are what you eat? Eat healthy but fuel up. Your body consumes more because is more stressed.
  • Drink water. The water helps the move of the liquids in the body; this helps to oxygenate well the brain, which helps the body to adapt to the altitude, in the process of creating more… while… to compensate for the lack of oxygen.
  • Sleep well
  • Use the pills

If you follow all the above, you’ll enjoy the wonderful mountain landscapes!

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One response to “A Practical Guide Into Acclimatization

  1. Pingback: Visit Bolivia, What to See and When to Go | The travel blog to inspire everyone to Travel More·

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