We have just completed nine days at altitude in South America, including Quito, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Cusco and Lake Titicaca. The highest altitude we experienced was 4,300 plus metres above sea level. Our group of 24 ranged in age from late 50s to late 70s and many of them experienced varying degrees of altitude sickness. We left Australia with altitude sickness tablets, but after speaking at length on the subject with the South American Rep of our tour company, I decided to take her advice and try to do without them. She said that every day at altitude, take one aspirin in the morning and drink small sips of water all the time, and breathe through your nose and exhale through your mouth. I did this and I was fine. The first day we climbed up a high Inca ruin at Ollayantambo, I felt a bit breathless, but we took it very slowly, I controlled my breathing (no panting through my mouth) and sipped water and I was fine. The hotels in these areas all have oxygen on demand so don't be afraid to ask for it if you need it.
Thanks for sharing this info! Did you acclimatise gradually? What altitude did you start off at? I think not ascending too quickly is a key factor.
It's interesting that altitude sickness seems to be very random in terms of who it affects. I read that it's similar to allergic reactions in that there is seemingly no rhyme or reason why it would affect one person and not another; age, health and fitness does not seem to have any bearing on it.
I flew into Bogotá last year which is around 2800m above sea level and felt no ill affects during the few days I was there, but I did notice being slightly more breathless than normal after running up a flight of stairs!
[ Edit: Edited on 11-Apr-2015, at 09:42 by bex76 ]
We started in Quito, 2820 metres and were there for six days. I didn't have much appetite but didn't realise that this was a symptom of altitude sickness. I just thought that I had been away from home for long enough and my stomach was going on strike! Then three days in the Galapagos, then three days in the Amazon, then Lima and onto Sacred Valley, 2792 metres for three days, then Machu Picchu, 2430 metres for one night, then Cuzco, 3400 metres for three days, and then Lake Titicaca, over 4000 metres. On the way to Lake Titicaca, we stopped at Asociacion de Artesanos 4319 metres. Yes, the trick is ascending gradually, however take it easy, and don't do anything too quickly.
Our guide told us that younger people seem to suffer more. Maybe it's because they don't slow themselves down sufficiently.