How to Deal With Altitude Sickness in Ecuador

How to deal with altitude sickness… it’s something that you rarely consider when you’ve just arrived to the beautiful country of Ecuador. Picture this: you’re thrilled to step out of your plane and soak in the beautiful, new and splendid views when suddenly… you’re not feeling all that great. It hits you like a gentle wave at first, and then snowballs into a devastating avalanche of dizziness, nausea and sometimes even vomiting. If you’re lucky, you shake it off and proceed through customs, then baggage claim and then finally arrive at your luxurious and extraordinary hotel in the heart of downtown Quito to lay down and sleep… only to find that it’s incredibly hard to go to sleep. You’re feeling unwell again, and begin to experience one of the most restless sleeps you’ve probably had in a long, long time. So, is it the end of the world? No. Is there a way to avoid this bit of misery for those unfortunate enough to experience it? Absolutely.

high altitude ecuador

Welcome to High Elevation Country: Where Altitude Sickness is Sometimes an Unpleasant Welcome Mat

The logic is easy to follow: higher altitudes contain thinner air. Sometimes, if people head up too high, too fast, the body ends up not getting the oxygen that it needs.

how to deal with altitude sickness

Photo by: Christopher Klassen

How to Deal With Altitude Sickness When in Ecuador

Hydrate, hydrate and… oh, did we say hydrate?

Water is key in helping oxygenate the body and bring it back up to speed with the thinner air found up at these altitudes. Also worth consuming is any range of hot herbal teas, especially coca-leaf tea if your hotel offers it.

Avoid having heavy meals

Dizziness is often times related to low blood-sugar. So, logically, the first instinct is to try and eat something nice and filling, but watch out! Sometimes doing so can actually worsen the problem and lead to worse symptoms such as nausea or vomiting. Try and eat light snacks, a small meal and/or veggies that can also help hydrate your system.

cotopaxi volcano shadow

Also worth avoiding until you get adjusted: Even higher altitudes, such as Cotopaxi Volcano
Photo by: Christopher Klassen

Try and have small doses of something sugary

As an added remedy, candy, a small portion of sweets or chewing gum are things worth having to help your body regain energy quickly. You might even be inclined to take the jump and savour the exotic tropical fruits of Ecuador as a juicy answer for how to deal with altitude sickness.

Avoid alcohol

As tempting as it might be to celebrate your arrival in this new and beautiful land, alcohol will actually do the complete opposite. It will thicken your blood and, consequently, lead to even more intense symptoms of altitude sickness. The lack of oxygen up here also entails what some might call a “cheap drunk,” meaning it takes less alcohol for it to have an effect on your body. And trust us, you do not want to experience a hangover (or “chuchaqui,” as it’s known locally) on top of your altitude sickness.

In case of emergency: get an extra dose of oxygen at your hotel (offered at Casa Gangotena)

Our own Casa Gangotena can help tremendously in offering guests that are having a little bit of extra touble handling the altitude. We have a doctor on-call that can aid and see just how serious your altitude sickness is: depending on the gravity, they can even provide you with an oxygen tank to help get that extra dose. Guests can sign a liability waiver if they wish to receive oxygen for free without the assistance of a doctor.

And when you can: Sleep

Rest is a fundamental piece of allowing your body to adjust to the higher altitudes and the less quantity of oxygen available. Giving yourself a couple of days (or more, if necessary) will go miles in making your experience of the Ecuadorian highlands a lot better.

high elevation ecuador

Should none of the above work in helping you feel better, then we suggest seeking out the nearest medical doctor. Some hotels even have doctors on-call (such as Casa Gangotena). These can provide you with the right type of medication that will help get you back up on your feet and enjoy the wonders of this beautiful country. But knowing how to deal with altitude sickness in a country like this is the most important step in being able to have a good trip!

With parents that worked for the U.S. Foreign Service up until he graduated from high school, Chris was raised to have the heart of a nomad throughout his life. He has resided in Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, Panama and Ecuador throughout his years, and just recently spent the past four up in Canada finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy & English at the University of British Columbia.