Altitude sickness, La Paz

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  • Coca Tea
    Coca Tea
    by skatzcatz
  • Words from Joseph Blatter...
    Words from Joseph Blatter...
    by marcelo15
  • Altitude sickness
    by Pete.Gibson
  • La Paz and Diamox, Altitude Sickness

    by jrmst102 Written Aug 24, 2012

    I just returned from La Paz and made the mistake of caring about all the negative posts that are out there. In our flight (American Airlines, from Miami), not a single passenger needed oxygen at arrival. I only saw a person with altitude sickness (out of hundreds that arrived that day). Because of panicking with all the negative posts out there, I called my doctor before the trip and asked for Diamox. He prescribed 4 x 250mg a day, that I considered too excessive. So, this is what I did:

    1) I took one 250mg Diamox pill a day, two days before flying, this was to make sure that I had no reactions to the medicine.

    2) I took one pill at arrival and two extras during the day, for precautions.

    3) I took plenty of water (more than 3L a day) and refrained from alcohol and exercise on the first two days.

    4) I walked slow on day 1, on day 2, I was feeling full of energy again

    5) I had headache in the first evening (14 hours after arrival) but took 2 Ibuprofen pills and slept like a baby

    6) I eat light on the first two days

    So, I has no issues, the tingles in the hand because of the medication was not bothering, the urge to urinate was to strong enough, so I could carry on.

    Previously, I had a severe AMS in Cuzco but in that occasion, I never stopped since arrival, had wine with meals, and even went to a disco. So, I know what the difference is.

    It is worth nothing that nobody else was taking Diamox and was just fine. It is important to no stay at El Alto but sleep lower in the city, like Calacoto, at least for the first two nights.

    I am not a climber, a trekker or well fit. A colleague of mine, fitter, born in Quito, Ecuador, had trouble at El Alto on day 1, he got tired easily, but as soon as we went back to the city, was swimming at the hotel pool!,

    Also, I found the coca tea to be more of a digestive and a very mild remedy, do not rely too much on that, if you are concerned, check with your doctor, but if you take it easy on the first two days, you will feel like running on day three. Do not care much about negative posts that you see on the Internet, thousands of tourists go to La Paz and Cuzco every month and just a small percentage had something serious (as matter of fact, the only time I saw a person in a stretcher, with oxygen, was at immigration at Miami airport!!!

    So, take your usual precautions and enjoy!!,

    Have a safe trip

    Related to:
    • Hiking and Walking
    • Budget Travel
    • Business Travel

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  • high altitude problems in la paz

    by chrispeteryoung Written Feb 22, 2010

    the last time i was in la paz was in 1998, my ex wife is bolivian and she suffered really bad to the altitude, my self i was fine, but i would suggest that any one arriving in la paz should take it easy for a couple of days, yes coca tea does help.

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  • high altitude problems in la paz

    by chrispeteryoung Written Feb 22, 2010

    the last time i was in la paz was in 1998, my ex wife is bolivian and she suffered really bad to the altitude, my self i was fine, but i would suggest that any one arriving in la paz should take it easy for a couple of days, yes coca tea does help.

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  • Coca, aspirin, water and naps

    by tarvid Written Aug 16, 2007

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Altitude sickness is real but ...

    On the way to your hotel ask the taxi driver to stop at the corner where they sell coca. A handful a day is recommended but some extra to share is always a good idea. The local sugar that looks like turbinado is fine, the dark globs less so for my taste. In any case you will want sugar and lots of it in your coca tea. Pick up an immersion heater from a street vendor on the Prado. Once at the hotel, make a huge glass or pot of coca tea (at least 10 leaves), drink a half liter of water with two aspirins and take a nap. When you rise, drink all the tea. Make the tea each night, drink it with two aspirins each morning.

    Then observe the following rules.

    1. Taxi up, walk down. Never exert yourself. You can get back in shape later.

    2. Abstain from alcohol. Hangovers can last two weeks. Once you are "hardened" a bit, the local wines from Tarija can be quite nice.

    3. Eat a light breakfast each morning, fruits and breads and pastries. Skip the sausage and eggs.

    4. Eat a hearty lunch after your noon nap.

    5. Eat light in the evening.

    6. Sleep alone.

    I found Diamox ineffective and unpleasant. Blood pressure regulators can leave you physically weak. Mood enhancers can have negative effects too. If you do get raging headaches, grab a plane to Santa Cruz for a couple of days. When you return, follow the rules.

    I have had some trouble with travelers diarrhea. Many of the fresh vegetables come from Rio Abajo and are irrigated with Lapaz sewer water. It is a tight and nasty loop (good for cholera bacteria). Use bleach and peel. Skip the lettuce. Penicillin is generally effective and cheap in the black market. Trimethoprim may be kinder to some.

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  • boltonian's Profile Photo

    Too High

    by boltonian Written Aug 14, 2007

    If you fly into La Paz from sea level (like I did), you WILL get altitude sickness.

    Taking Diamox before you get there is meant to help. I decided not to, but soon took them when I arrived.

    Most people I spoke to said that they were ill for between 2 days and 5 days.

    I was ill for 1 day, which is pretty good. This is what i did. Not sure which bit was the key to my recovery, but take your pick.

    After arrival, maybe 10 hours passed when the migrane hit. i was reduced to bed. I was sick. It was tough.
    I then took 1 diamox tablet.
    Next day, after drinking loads of water, I was still rough. I did the decent to 1200m on the mountain biking trip.
    That was it, recovered. My return to the high altitude was fine.

    So take diamox, and decent then re-ascend. Worked for me.

    Oh, and avoid beer!!!!

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  • Pete.Gibson's Profile Photo

    Altitude Sickness, AMS

    by Pete.Gibson Written Oct 15, 2005

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    As La paz is over 4000 m above sealevel Altitude sickness is a possibility, it can stike anyone however fit you may be, especialy if you fly directly to this alitude.
    Symtoms are Headache, nausea, vomiting,Fatigue,Lightheadeness,Confusion

    If you get any of these symptons


    if mild symptons wait for these to disappear before going any higher
    If symptons persist see a doctor

    Related to:
    • Hiking and Walking
    • Backpacking
    • Mountain Climbing

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  • marcelo15's Profile Photo


    by marcelo15 Updated Jul 31, 2005

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    This warning is focus on people who lives at the sea level.
    As i`ve seen from some visitors, there are some people who feels more the altitude than others.
    do not worry too much. you can feel better if you have a COCA TEA after arriving.
    it`s really helful and the most natural thing to fight against this sickness.
    please take note on this warning and enjoy your visit...
    English version about the sign...
    LA PAZ, FEBRUARY 11th, 2000.

    Esta advertencia esta concentrada a personas que viven al nivel del mar.
    A medida que he visto muchos visitantes, hay personas que siente mas los efectos de la altura que otras.
    No se preocupen mucho. Se puede sentir mejor bebiendo un mate de COCA despues de llegar a la paz.
    Es realmente muy útil esto para contrarrestar los efectos de la altura.
    Toma nota de esta advertencia y disfruta tu visita a La Paz.

    Words from Joseph Blatter...
    Related to:
    • Women's Travel
    • Study Abroad
    • Backpacking

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  • Jez79's Profile Photo

    Altiitude sickness

    by Jez79 Written Dec 5, 2003

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    La Paz is located in a canyon, 3632 metres above sea level. If you are not used to being at such high altitude, you may be affected by altitude sickness, which can occur within 6 to 48 hours of arrival. Altitude sickness results from the lack of available oxygen to the body, as the air is 'thinner' at high altitude.

    Mild symptoms can include headaches, nausea, lack of apetite, unusual tiredness, trouble slsseping, unusual breathing in sleep and shivering. If symptoms are mild, rest, fluids and Diamox can be used to treat. The locals also use mate de coca (coca tea), which is said to prevent or reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness.

    Severe symptoms include severe headaches, unsteadiness on feet, unusual behaviour, extreme drowsiness, difficulty breathing, blue nails and lips and a cough with frothy sputum. If experiencing severe symptoms, descent to lower ground is the only solution, and this should be done immediately. Altitude sickness can be fatal, so err on the side of caution.

    Altitude sickness can be minimised by a gradual ascent (impossible if you fly in!!), pleanty of rest, light meals, lots of fluids, avoiding alcohol, cigarettes and sleeping pills (especially on first day), and treating infections quickly (infections cause increase in need for oxygen). You can take Diamox prior to ascent to help you adjust more rapidly to altitude. This is a prescription medication, so check with a doctor before you go away for advice.

    I flew into La Paz in the afternoon, and due to some social unrest, we had to leave the next morning, so we did a rushed tour of the city. I spent that night getting to know the toilet bowl in our hotel room, trying to keep down coca tea and whshing I was anywhere but there. I'd definately recommend taking some Diamox BEFORE you arrive, and making the time to rest a bit. If you're lucky, you'll only notice the altitude in the fact that you get out of breath faster than usual, and need to walk a little slower.

    Overlooking La Paz from El Alto

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  • glen_warner's Profile Photo

    ALTITUDE, as I'm sure everyone...

    by glen_warner Written Aug 24, 2002

    ALTITUDE, as I'm sure everyone has said.
    I was ill for about 36 hours. Take on plenty of water, have some re-hydration fluid mix to add to your water, walk slowly, stop and sit regularly and take in the views. Enjoy the experience

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  • skatzcatz's Profile Photo

    Coca Tea

    by skatzcatz Written Jan 30, 2007

    For helping with Altitude sickness sip on some local coca tea. Be warned, it's taste is very acquired.

    Coca Tea Coca Tea

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