It is one of the Frequently Asked Questions for the AMAUTA course counsellors from students that are about to register for our Spanish courses in Peru: how will the altitude in Cusco affect my body?
Will I get soroche, altitude sickness? Will I be bothered by the altitude? Will I be strong enough to live and learn Spanish in Cusco at 3400 meters above sea level? And what should I do to avoid soroche?
Fortunately, we can always confirm that the altitude is hardly ever a problem for our Spanish students*. We do recommend all our students to rest upon arrival, and take it easy during the first days so your body can adjust to the altitude before their start their Spanish classes in Cusco.
But does really happen in our body, when we arrive at the altitude in Cusco?
Why do we react to altitude changes?
With each breath, you inhale a certain amount of oxygen. Your body is accustomed to this respective amount. If you change your position to a significantly higher elevation (2500m or more), you will most likely show symptoms of altitude sickness. Why? In higher elevations, the air pressure is less. This means that although the oxygen percentage in the air stays the same, you will still take in less oxygen with every breath you take because the air is less dense, or “thinner”.
(This is one of the reasons airplanes are equipped with pressure equalization.)
The term “sickness” implies that there is a cure for it. However, there isn’t. Practically the only cure would be to return to lower levels of altitude. You can, however, treat the individual symptoms.
What are the symptoms of altitude sickness?
Not everyone shows symptoms in the same manner, and not everyone is affected by altitude sickness in the first place.
Most commonly, you might react with:
In more serious cases symptoms can include:
Should you really feel bad and should your symptoms not lessen after 72 hours, you should consider getting yourself to a lower altitude. In any case, consult a doctor, especially if you suffer from lung or heart problems!
AMAUTA is happy to count with an in-house medical assistance: there is a doctor available for you 24 hours a day. In case you want to travel to a lower altitude, you can consider spend a week at our Spanish school in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, which is almost 1000 meters lower than Cusco.
What can you do to lessen the effects of altitude sickness?
When you take into account those tips, you should feel perfectly fine when starting your Spanish lessons in Peru!
For more info, feel free to contact one of our course counselors at any moment.
*This blog is not professional medical advice. Consult a doctor if you have any doubts concerning your reaction to higher altitudes.