domingo, 8 de febrero de 2009

Altitude Health and Sickness

Altitude, Health and Sickness

La Oroya and its weather:

La Oroya , Province of Yauli, Department of Junin, is located 175 km away from Lima city, at 3730 meters above of the sea level (12 237.53 feet).

The weather is dry with a relative average humidity of 60-70% in a year; the relative average temperature is 8° to 12°C around the year, The months from May to September are the coldest with temperatures of -4°C in the nights, but it is sunny during the daytime. From February to September, temperature can be grater than 30° C during the days.

The rainy season like in the rest of the Peruvian Andes is from October to March.

Physical Aspects and Altitude:

The components of the air are gases such as oxygen (20.93%) Carbon dioxide (0.04%) and nitrogen (79%).

The percentage of oxygen in the air is the same at the sea level as well as in the altitude. However, the gas compresses, therefore the number of molecules of oxygen contained in one volume unit at the sea level is greater than the one in the altitude. In other words, the barometric pressure that depends on the molecular concentration in the air is greater at the sea level, and decreases with the raise of altitude.

Oxygen at altitude is reduced, resulting in a lower intake of oxygen (HYPOXIA) and reduced level of oxygen in the blood system (HYPOXEMIA).

Normal Adaptation to the altitude:

The lower intake of oxygen to the blood above the 3000 m.a.s.l. affects the physiology of the heart, brain, lungs, blood, muscles, and others organs, which has the capacity of adapting to hypoxia.

The 25% of the Peruvian population lives in the altitude and some other millions lives in altitudes around the world.

The exposition to altitude produces a normal response to compensate the lack of oxygen. Breathing increases and if you exercise, you can have tachycardia.
You can adapt completely after a few days.

Recommendations before traveling to the altitude:

Have a good rest the day before the trip

Eat a little and a have a soft diet

Avoid smoking, drinking alcohol, and taking sleepy pills.

If you present a heart or lung diseases previously, obtain a medical authorization for your trip.

Wear heavy cloths.

Recommendations upon arrival to the altitude:

Avoid any kind of physical effort the first days.

Eat a soft diet, in moderated portions the first days

Avoid fat and eat more carbohydrates.

If you present any discomfort or symptom that concerns you, please call the medial assitance (Hospital) immediately.

Diseases related to the altitude:


Approximately the 52% of people present low to moderate symptoms upon arrival and even 48 hours after the arrival.

Headache, rapid heart beat.

Nauseas, flatulent, vomit

Motion sickness


Loss of appetite

Lack of air during exercising

These symptoms improve by resting, taking aspirins and with the administration of oxygen.

Acute Pulmonary Edema in the Altitude:

Only 0.5% of the people presents it, and is more frequent in native children and teenagers from the altitude that come from the sea level. It is not frequent in visitors. The symptoms are:

Excessive difficulty for breathing.

Rapid heart beat while resting.

Increase of the breathing frequency.


This is related to the accumulation of liquids in the lungs in some sensitive persons, and it appears after 6 hours upon arrival to the altitude and until 48 hours after.

Hospitalization and permanent oxygen are required, full recover is obtained after 24 or 48 hours of treatment

Acute Brain Edema in the Altitude:
It is not very common, one of the symptoms is headache, which does not get better with treatment, vomits, and there could be hallucinations and drowsiness.

Hospitalization oxygen, diuretic, corticoids are required.

Note: This paper has been written by Dr. Aquiles MONROY in order to help La Oroya’s foreign visitors in these years.

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