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by on July 26, 2019

Quito Altitude Sickness – Symptoms & Treatment

Quito, Ecuador is 2800 meters above sea level, and visitors often suffer from altitude sickness. Be prepared to recognize symptoms and help yourself with treatment.

In Quito, Ecuador, altitude sickness is common, known locally as “soroche.” It is generated in altitudes starting at 2,740m—that is, exactly the altitude of Quito. For that reason is the second highest capital city in the world!!.

Why does altitude sickness occur?

The illness is caused by the lack of oxygen in the body, due to increased altitude (and decreased oxygen density in the air), respective to the visitor’s place of origin.

Classic symptoms of altitude sickness

Altitude sickness occurs with these symptoms:

  • Headache (symptom present all the time)
  • Nausea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Choking sensation during exercise
  • Lack of sleep
Quito-Altitude-Sickness-Standing-on-Mountain
Pay attention to your body at high altitudes

As part of prevention, you must also remember that the illness occurs because the person has not been able to adequately adapt to the change in altitude. Usually, this means that the change happened too rapidly for the body’s to adjust (e.g. travel by car, plane, cable car, or even running or cycling).

The human body needs to adapt slowly to the increase in height, so it is best to do an exercise called “climb high, sleep low:” if you go to a high altitude, then rest the night in an area of lower altitude, and then progressively increase the height gained with each day and night. This is a simple trick, if possible, to help acclimatize.

We also recommend staying at the hotel in Quito, to ensure adequate coverage and life support. In addition, hotels are very experienced in handling this disease, and can guide visitors accurately to resolve the situation.

Quito-Altitude-Sickness-Hotel-concierge-helping-guests
Talk with the hotel concierge if you feel light headed!
Severe altitude sickness

In exceptional cases and that respond to variables such as age, place of residence, health complications and more, there are cases of severe altitude sickness with the following symptoms:

  •  Loss of balance.
  • Changes in behavior
  • Severe headache not relieved by pain medicine
  • Dry cough initially, then continuous production of fluids
  • Trouble breathing at rest
Quito-Altitude-Sickness-Historical-center-of-quito
Quito's sits pretty tall at 9,350 feet
Treatment of altitude sickness

In these cases, urgent medical attention by a health professional is recommended. However, in all cases, it is recommended to stop ascending and give the patient the following:

  • Hydration and food (light meals)
  • Mild pain relievers for headaches (to not forget to first ask about any allergies)
  • Rest for at least one night for the body to adjust to the lack of oxygen
  • Avoid excessive exercises on the first day of arrival in Quito

If the symptoms do not subside within 24 hours, visitors may consider descending to a lower height in order to stabilize.


About Keenan Ennis

Keenan Ennis studied Conservation and wildlife biology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. This eventually lead him to a program in Ecuador studying hummingbirds and their keystone nutritional species in the Jama-Coaque Ecological Reserve. Since, he has worked with the critically endangered Bandurria Andina, or black-faced Ibis of the Andean Páramo. Through his ecological background, he provides an in depth insight into the conservation processes of the Galapagos Islands.

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