Travel to high altitude

Petelang Member Posts: 5
edited 6. Feb 2020, 06:53 in Chat to our Helpline Team
Hi. My wife has booked us on another gruelling tour in an effort to see the world before I peg out. This time it's a very large part of South America including high altitude parts of Chile.
I have fortunately only low level symptoms of RA at present and have been put on Hydroxychloroquine along with Ibuprofen and Naproxen if needed. My question is will this likely to be affected by the effects of high altitude which I understand can make some people very ill.
At least at present there is no Corona virus in that continent.


  • helpline_team
    helpline_team Posts: 3,416
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Hi Peter,

    Thank you for posting on our Helpline Forum and for your enquiry about travelling to high altitudes in Chile, and how this could affect you due to your RA and the medicines you are taking. It is understandable that you are concerned as some people can become ill at high altitudes.

    It may be good to talk this through with your specialist rheumatology nurse and/or GP. You may also wish to contact the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) for advice. This is the specialist association providing information and support for people living with RA. Follow the link for contact details.

    You could post on our Living with Arthritis forum where you may receive more responses from people who have experience of travelling with RA.

    You may also find the information on our Versus Arthritis website helpful. See:

    I hope you enjoy your visit to South America.

    Best wishes,

    Fiona, Helpline Advisor
  • stickywicket
    stickywicket Member Posts: 27,686
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Hi Pete and welcome from me too. My RA beginnings were a bit different. My family thought I was making a fuss about 'chilblains' on my fingers but I think the doc remembered I'd had 'rheumatic fever a few years before and put two and two together. Bloods confirmed it. That was going on 60 years ago (Criikey! Am I that old :shock: )

    I take methotrexate and hydroxy(chloroquine). I do hope you don't take ibuprofen and naproxen together as they're both anti-inflammatories and you'd be overdosing.

    The gum problem I can't relate to. Some people, as they get older, do have bleeding problems with gums. Do you use an electric toothbrush? That might help but really your dentist should advise.

    It is, unfortunately, just possible that the knee swelling is, indeed, 'wear and tear' or, to give it its proper name, osteoarthritis. That would show up differently ón x-rays to RA damage (quite a few of us have 'done the double') and is treated not by a rheumatologist but by a GP, basically with the meds you're already taking plus physio exercises.

    I believe high altitudes are actually good for RA though humidity isn't so holidays can be a very unknown quantity. 'Trekking and exploring' definitely sound like a recipe for disaster. We have to pace ourselves not put ourselves under pressure. We have to remember that he who goes up must also come down however knackered the knees might be. And, if another trip is planned for the following day....... :?

    It is a fact that arthritis affects everyone in a family but in different ways. My sons, when young, couldn't have all that their friends had as we'd only one wage coming in. My husband sometimes, after a day's work, had to cook, clean and launder for them when I had spells in hospital. Though they soon learnt independence. On holidays I had to do so much walking, find a bench and wait for them to come back.

    When Mr SW retired, and wanted walking holidays abroad, he started by going on those where you're in a group and walk for the day while your luggage is transported to the next place. This evolved into camping with friends then staying in gites, hiking and sightseeing. Meanwhile my sister and I got together to do less strenuous things for the fortnight. Your wife will, sadly, have to learn the realities of arthritis. Choices have to be made, often not between wanted and not wanted but between preferable and definitely not. I suggest you try something relatively easy at first and somewhere where you can stop if it all gets too much.

    Sorry to sound like a killjoy but, believe me, I've had a good life with arthritis. I / we still visit our son in Los Angeles every year for a month. Mr SW does some trail walking and golf, with son and grandson when work / school / baseball permits and I just sit under the brolly by the pool with a cool beer and trail mix. It's tough but someone has to do it :lol:

    NB. I'm just an ordinary forum member, not one of our helpline people. I posted here accidentally, meaning to post on your thread on Living With Arthritis. I'll copy it there. Sorry Mods.
    If at first you don't succeed, then skydiving definitely isn't for you.
    Steven Wright
  • Petelang
    Petelang Member Posts: 5

    Hi All.

    Well were back, and what a tale to tell. In fact I didn't get to test the "High altitude" effects as we didn't actually get as far as the Andes!

    Our 4 week holiday began with a flight to Brazil (left UK on 23Rd February) to see the Carnival in Rio, which was absolutely fantastic, then to the Iguazu falls inland, followed by joining the Celebrity Eclipse for a cruise from Buenos Aries right around Cape Horn and up the west coast of Chile. At the end of that we were supposed to be visiting Peru and Machu Picchu, hence my query, but this didn't take place.

    As we were leaving we thought, at least were going to the one continent unaffected by Covid 19 but as we continued it was evident the world was changing with the lockdown in Italy and elsewhere. Our first hotel in Rio was full of tourists from China which did make me think but no-one seemed unwell. We were fine until we arrived at the cruise terminal a few days later when I had a very nasty dose of the squits. Nevertheless we boarded ship and set off on our cruise. Two days in I had fever symptoms, was never more than two minutes from the nearest toilet and feeling like I had done ten rounds with Tyson Fury. A visit to the medical centre on-board provided relief and I was quarantined in the cabin for 24 hrs. After this I felt fine for a few days, but still not right in the toilet department. I got the shivers again and this time with projectile vomiting and I did ache. This time the medics kept me in for 6 hrs and administered antibiotics intravenously after a series of blood and urine tests and a flu virus test (negative). I began to fear this was more than indicated, as watching the news, the rest of the world by now was sliding into pandemic but I wasn't quarantined this time although I wasn't fit to leave the cabin for a day or two.

    By now we were heading for Cape Horn and I gradually improved. A visit to a lecture in the theatre though highlighted that there were quite a few coughs developing amongst fellow passengers and a few with sniffles. After the Cape we proceeded North and by the time we reached Porto Montt I was feeling quite OK but my wife had the cough and was feeling like she had a bad cold. The ships crew were redoubling efforts at sanitisation and insisting there was no virus on board.

    And so we arrived at San Antonio, Chile, our departure point from the ship but, we were denied port entry by Chile and from then everything changed. So our tour was cancelled as delicate negotiations between ship and high authorities in US and Chilean government took place, culminating in four days at anchor followed by two days at anchor at Valparaiso where the ship was provisioned by small boat and refuelled in the bay and we were then heading North on a ten day unexpected cruise extension. The rest of the world in the meantime had gone into lockdown and about a dozen ships at sea were stranded with no ports of refuge AND cases of Covid on board! We began to get concerned.

    Eventually we returned home to UK to a world of social distancing and a message to say Covid had been confirmed on the ship, one dead! My wife was floored for the next week, weak and unable to get out of bed I was suddenly drafted as carer whilst we were self isolating. We have now both fully recovered but reports of 160 passengers have tested positive and at least 8 dead amongst our fellow travellers.

    Although I can't get tested, I am convinced I had a brush with it, and it was nasty, but could it have been the Hydroxychloroquine that saved me from more extensive debilitation? Perhaps this will never be known but I certainly recovered much more quickly than my (long suffering -sic) wife!

    All quite an adventure for an old geezer with RA, but after isolation I was called for a blood test by the GP nurse and the results came back extremely positive. My liver is A1, even cholesterol levels down and I guess due to the squits and it's off-putting effect on diet, I'm a stone lighter. I actually feel better generally but getting on with DIY jobs I feel the effects after a days strenuous activity in a few joints, mostly the knees and hands but is comfortable enough with a rest day in between.

    I wanted to update this thread earlier but the site dissappeared for a time. I thought you had all gone!