Diamox and altitude sickness

Aug 28th, 2004, 02:38 PM
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Diamox and altitude sickness

My husband and I are leaving next Saturday, Sept. 4, for 2 weeks in Peru. I'm a bit concerned about altitude sickness and was wondering if anyone has had any bad reactions to taking Diamox. We both filled prescriptions for it but I'd like to be sure the drug itslf won't make me sick. We'll be spending 4 days in Cuzco and I'd hate to waste 1 or 2 days with headaches, dizziness etc waiting to acclimatize. Thanks for any responses, advice. Laurie
laurieco is online now  
Aug 28th, 2004, 02:53 PM
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Several years ago we were in Cuzco for 4 days. My wife took Diamox and it made her sick. I took it and it didn't effect me at all. After the first day we stopped taking it. We did drink matte de cocoa on the plane prior to landing, and at the hotel as soon as we checked in. Dizzyness won't last more than a few hours. Walk slowly, drink lots of water and don't race up the steps 2 at one time. When you go to Machu Pichu you should be OK as it's about 3,000 lower than Cuzco. Oh, matte de cocoa is tea made from cocoa leafs.Don't worry about it, you'll love the place.
arbegold is offline  
Aug 28th, 2004, 03:10 PM
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Thanks for the reply. I'll have to think about taking the Diamox.
laurieco is online now  
Aug 28th, 2004, 03:21 PM
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In the search box at the top of the page type in:

Using a panga in the Galapagos

Then click on Find

There was a discussion here about Diamox

Percy is online now  
Aug 30th, 2004, 12:56 PM
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Everybody is effected differently...I thought I had read enough about this before I left.

I searched this site and other travel sites and medical ones as well. I even had friends who had gone to Peru and experienced a real variety from what is posted here to being deathly ill, flown home and hospitalized so I felt "ready", had Diamox and another pescription for severe motion sickness which "helped".

I was "fine" a little "light" after I landed in Cuzco...then within 5 minutes "It" hit. I felt drugged, helpless and my fingers started to go numb. I could only walk a few steps yet I felt like I had just completed a two hour work out. I took my meds and felt "better". Nothing else happend until the wee hours of the morning when I woke up completely unable to breathe, move, or talk...I was temporarily paralyzed and could do nothing but pray for mercy.
After 10 very long minutes I could move my right arm, slowly, I grabbed my pills...it took a few minutes for the pills to work but even when I got feeling, movement and air back I was scared.
I had days of Cuzco, MP, Sacred Valley and Puno left and did not want to wimp out and get home...
I did everything by the book, walked slowly, paced myself, drank TONS of bottled water, ate light, slept, or tried to sleep enough etc. The bouts of nausea, dizziness and sheer exhustation came from time to time throughout my days at this incredible elevation.

I thought that my "decent" from Cuzco to Puno would be a relief but, Puno is even higher than Cuzco!!!! Sick and tired I toughed it out, sat some hikes out and sadly learned that MANY folks were much sicker and effected than I was. I saw vomiting, fainting, crying and some folks get down right mean and crabby...

In shape/out of shape has nothing to do with this issue. I share with you because I never had a headache in Peru and would have gladly traded it for what I did have.

That aside Peru is awesome and I hope you have a great time. I have never had this travel issue ever and was beyond "ready" however, nothing I did could have "saved" me from the effects that the altitude had on me...remember, everybody is different.

My Travel Best
OaktownTraveler is offline  
Aug 30th, 2004, 01:52 PM
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I am so sorry to hear that you suffered so badly from altitude sickness. What a bummer! I do have one question: did you start taking Diamox a couple of days before you arrived in Cuzco, or did you wait until you felt the symptoms? We are going to Peru in early 2005, and are anxious to do all we can to avoid problems.
Thanks for sharing your experiences,
GandCT is offline  
Aug 30th, 2004, 02:15 PM
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Thanks to all who wrote. I plan to start taking my diamox several days before we get to Cuzco. My husband and I each got a supply of 250mg tablets which we will break in half and take twice a day. Prior to getting to Cuzco, we are spending 2 nights in the Sacred Valley and then a night at MP, both several thousand feet lower than Cuzco so hopefully we'll have acclimatized by the time we get to Cuzco. But if all else fails, we are staying at the Monasterio in one of the "oxygenated" rooms. I think we've taken all the percautions we could other than staying home and that is not an option!

laurieco is online now  
Aug 30th, 2004, 02:47 PM
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There are certainly travellers like OaktownTraveler who've had painful experience with altitude sickness, but the facts are, that majority of people are OK at 10000 feet at which hight CUZCO is located. So before considering possible troubles, keep in mind that you are far more likely to be in the group of people who have little problems at that altitude.

Neither age, nor physical conditions or gender, have much to do with the sickness. It just attacks some but not the others. But past experiences do forecast future outcomes. If you have ever been to above 10000 feet and had no problems, then you are most likely going to be fine in Cuzco.

If you do experience serious problems in CUZCO, one thing you can do is to hire a taxi taking you down to Sacred Valley area which is about one hour away but 700?feet lower than CUZCO. That will more than likely take care of your problems. Your itinerary probably includes a visit to Sacred Valley anyway.
kang is offline  
Aug 30th, 2004, 02:57 PM
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Sorry I did read that you already planned to stay in Sacred Valley and MP prior to arrriving in CUSCO. Sacred Valley as far as I know, is in the "normal" altitude range for vast majority of people. After a coule days there, you will be just fine.
kang is offline  
Aug 30th, 2004, 05:47 PM
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I started taking the meds aproximately 4 days before as I was already taking my weekly malaria medicine and was trying to put some space and opportunity between these drugs.

I do not do pills so all this and the numerous shots before leaving the USA was something very different for me.


You will LOVE the Monasterio. One word of GOOD caution about the "oxygen" supply rooms: Addicting.

Once you have your "fix" it actually becomes more difficult to cope with Cuzco than not. You are essentially giving yourself a "transfusion" if you will and unless you stay hooked up...which you can't, you will(may) have "effects".

The Hotel Monasterio is "heaven" on earth...especially in Cusco, Peru. This is GREAT. The other side is you MUST be very careful when you leave this "den" for the "travel-rich" as you will be begged beyond mercy from those in Cusco who have less than you...close to everybody.
You simply have to do the Bath Butler, Inka Massage, The Art Tour and Dinner!
Do your Cusco sightseeing first or else chances are you will have a difficult time leaving this most magnificant place.

On the altitude...I have been at very high elevations etc. Again, I was not one of a few in this "boat". I was, as stated, not nearly as sick as most of the people that I saw nor was I as sick as those who shared what they were experiencing.

Moving or trying to move to a slightly lower elevation "sounds" easy and reasonable. It just does not work like that. Cusco, Peru is not a tiny place and taxi's are not everywhere. I had my own private driver and tour guide who moved the Andes Mountains for me and believe me being still, calm, prayerful and patient works best.

No fight, just really trying to help and prepare those who will make this once in a lifetime journey.

Oh, the Cocoa leaves/tea can make sleep a challange as well as make you anxious.
This works for some and not for others.
Just be informed that this is what it is period, dot. Smile!
I did not have either as I am most allergic...
OaktownTraveler is offline  
Aug 30th, 2004, 05:50 PM
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Oh, you gotta eat dinner at the restaurant called Heaven. RSVP's are mandatory...

OaktownTraveler is offline  
Aug 30th, 2004, 10:06 PM
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My impression is there are lots of taxi in Cusco.

A more interesting way to go to Sacred Valley is to take the local bus. Catch any taxi in Cusco and tell the driver to take you to the bus station to Sacred Valley. The local bus leaves every half hour. A lot of fun to be with the locals. They are very kind people.
kang is offline  
Aug 31st, 2004, 09:00 AM
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Laurie -

From the CDC site:

I have heard of people having terrible difficulties at altitudes as low as 8,000 feet and their only solution was to get to a lower altitude. That said, it's important to know what the danger signs are and the CDC article gives important information.

I'm sure you already know about sunblock... the highest SPF you can find... and about sunglasses (UV protection for your eyes)... and, about chap stick with UV protection & moisture for your lips... and a hat to reduce glare and block out the sun.

One thing I learned along the way that has helped me immensely is to use a saline solution like Ocean Spray to help my sinuses at high altitudes. My sinuses tend to become very dried out and bloody at altitude. A little Ocean Spray several times a day helps tremendously. Then, a little vasoline at the front of the nostrils can also help.

Out of desperation I have even put a little Neosporin (an over the counter antibiotic ointment)in my nostrils. This trick helped amazingly! I ran out of Ocean Spray while staying in the mountains just north of Taos, New Mexico a few weeks ago. I was 30 minutes from town and had been at altitude for most of a week when this happened. Well, I refused to leave serenity, thinking that I could tough this out and my nostrils became very sad and sore. There were so sore and painful with all the dried up, cracked up bloodiness. I checked my toiletries bag to find a little vasoline and found none. I did find the Neosporin and it gave me such great relief!

I've also been known to pack a giant box of Kleenix with lotion & aloe along with me to Cusco. This eliminates the need for vasoline. Then, as you use up the tissues, you make room for some wonderful souvenirs.

Have a great trip!
SharonNRayMc is offline  
Aug 31st, 2004, 09:53 AM
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As an alternative, you might want to consider taking ginkgo biloba. My husband and I were in Tibet last month at an altitude of 12,000 feet or higher (and we had to fly in from near sea level so there was no possible way to slowly acclimatize). Having read some things regarding the side effects of Diamox, we decided not to use it. Then I read about taking ginkgo as a preventative for altitude sickness and we decided to give it a try. You can find some info on the use of ginkgo on the Everest base camp medical clinic site:


Both of us took 120mg twice a day starting 5 days before we flew to Lhasa, and we had no problems with the altitude except for a very slight dizzyness that went away after the first hour. The next day we were climbing the Potala (slowly of course) and feeling pretty good. The only other time that I've been at a similar altitude was camping in the eastern Sierras, that time I did feel lightheaded and a little nauseous throughout the trip. I know altitude can affect the same person differently each time, but my husband and I are both convinced that the ginkgo supplement helped to make the altitude adjustment easier this time.

The only problem I'm aware of with ginkgo is that you're advised not to take if you're on any blood thinning medications.
Patty is offline  
Aug 31st, 2004, 10:07 AM
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I also had the same problems with my sinuses as Sharon did. My nasal passages were so dry and painful that it woke me up the first night. I had to resort to using some of my husband's nasal spray that he always carries when flying (I don't know if it's just saline or has some sort of decongestant). I felt fine after that and was able to go back to sleep and used it every night after that before going to bed.
Patty is offline  
Aug 31st, 2004, 04:07 PM
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I really appreciate all the advice and suggestions you've all written. Saline nose spray is a good idea. When I visit my sister in West Texas, my lips and nose always get so dry from the lack of humidity. I guess Cuzco is the same way. I always use chapstick anyway so that's no problem, and I planned on taking sunblock.
I'll be sure to check out Heaven. Is it near the main square?
Sharon, you'll be happy to know that I always bring an empty suitcase with me for shopping, and I usually manage to fill it, except in Paris where everything is too expensive!
As for the ginko, I'm a bit afraid of those types of remedies. I remember going out on a catamaran on the Great Barrier Reef and I could'nt take my trusted dramamine beacause I was going scuba diving and couldn't chance the drowsiness. I relied on ginger pills which people swore worked. To make a long story short, I was green the entire time! I'll stick to the Diamox. We have 250mg tablets which we'll cut in half to minimize the side effects. I'll try not to get hooked on the oxygen at the Monasterio. I mainly want it for sleeping. My husband and I get headaches if we don't get enough oxygen when we sleep. Hopefully a few days at 8000 ft beforehand will take care of the altitude problem. We should be okay with that. From what I understand, planes are pressurized to simulate an altitude of 8000 ft and we never have problems on planes, other than being bored ;-)
laurieco is online now  
Aug 31st, 2004, 05:27 PM
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Heaven is not on the main square. It is in a smaller square. The Monasterio folks will tell you how to get there.

Don't forget to RSVP. The restaurant is "secure" so they will not buzz you in with out a reservation. It is not in the least bit stuffy...it's totally unique!

Remember...Bath Butler. See the lady at the guest services desk.

OaktownTraveler is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2004, 12:36 PM
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My husband and I were in Peru last October and were concerned, as you are about the altitude. Just as a precaution we both took Diamox. It turned out to be a good thing. Evidently we had severe poisoning, hitting us the night we saw Machu Picchu. I was much worse than my husband. We had a doctor awaiting our arrival at the Monasterio in Cuzco. He said that had we not taken the Diamox, we would have been even sicker. (Although I can't imagine that.)I sincerely hope you don't get sick. We think it was from the Pisco sours we had in Lima 3 days before. Evidently there was crushed ice in the drinks. Bottom line - you could probably do without the Diamox, but it wouldn't hurt. Just don't drink alcohol when you are on it. And stay away from the water!!!
Lolo is offline  
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