JUST BREATHE!-TIPS FOR HELPING WITH ALTITUDE
The plane makes a sharp left turn. The flight attendant comes on the loudspeaker announcing to prepare for landing. Your face is glued to the window like bubble gum gazing at the surrounding towering Andean peaks. Before you know it, you step off the plane at El Alto International Airport in the altiplano city of El Alto just outside of La Paz. You feel the intense rays of the sun beat down against your face and the cool mountain air rush in. You are filled with excitement, trepidation and curiosity. Your instructor team of Ana, Doug and Zack are excitedly waiting for you at the arrivals area just outside of the immigration and customs stations. You try to calm yourself and go to take a big breath of that fresh mountain air…but then it feels as if you are trying to suck air through a straw. Whoa! It hits you. You are now at over 13,000 feet above sea level!
We will all experience varying degrees of this when we arrive to El Alto. It is natural. Altitude effects every one of us, no matter how many times we have been to high elevations. It is different every time (residents of high-elevation areas are known to get altitude illness quite often). It can be a bit scary to feel some of the initial effects, but we want to assure you that this is completely normal. It will take time for your body to adjust, and we instructors will guide you through this as you transition to life in the high Andes.
Some common symptoms you may feel when you step off the plane and in your first few days at high altitude: light headedness, headache, shortness of breath, fatigue, dry skin, chapped lips, general malaise, upset stomach, loss of appetite, increased heart rate, and difficulty sleeping.
These all sound super scary! Don’t worry though, we are going to take it slow and help everyone adjust. It will take a few days and our bodies will work miracles as we begin to produce more red blood cells and acclimatize. While we will be there to help ameliorate the symptoms when we arrive in El Alto, we ask that you get in the habit of doing a couple things to help you prepare for altitude and also general health while on the trip.
There you have it. These small steps will go a long ways! We are all so excited to see your beautiful faces and get to explore the splendors of the Andes together! Nos vemos pronto!
-Your instructor team