Leh and most of the places in Ladakh are located above the altitude of 10,000 feet which led to the dizziness, headaches, vomiting or AMS among the travellers. Hence it is necessary to accustoms yourself with oxygen changes at high altitude by spending more time and this process is known as Acclimatization. Acclimatization is one of the most vital aspects of the itinerary while planning trip to Ladakh.
Apart from the breathtaking view of Ladakh, there are some issues which travellers should know to face high altitude. Vomiting, dizziness and other symptoms don’t give you a chance to enjoy yourself. Depends on person to person, some people able to manage this situation and some cannot.
High Altitude Sickness is a common episode, if you are going directly to Ladakh, especially by air. You can easily experience the impact of AMS. In spite of the Altitude Sickness, if you go higher, things might get worse. So, it is better if you are thinking about going to Ladakh, you should aware of the Altitude Sickness.
Acclaimed and Acute Mountain Sickness
Altitude Scale as per AMS:
- 8,000 – 12,000 ft (High)
- 12,000 – 18,000 ft (Very High)
- 18,000 ft & above (Extremely High)
Acute Mountain Sickness occurs due to scarcity of oxygen at high altitude (after 8000ft) and inability of our bodies to adjust to low oxygen content in air. This led to the higher breathing rate and your body gets adjusted when you append some time on high altitude. Different people will acclimatize at different rates and it didn’t depend upon the health of the person. For example, a healthy man can also experience AMS during Ladakh trip.
Most of the people face AMS after an altitude of 10,000ft and it becomes severe as the elevation becomes higher. Don’t go to such high altitudes directly to avoid AMS. The condition can get worse when one sleeps, since the body respiration decreases.
It is better if you are able to acclimatize properly on high altitudes, otherwise move down immediately. You can also take AMS medicines but consult doctor before taking them. It can be dangerous to your health as these medicines might have side effects.
You can check for Ataxia by letting affected person to walk straight by keeping his toe to toe in a straight line. If he is unable to do that, you should come down immediately from high altitude.
Cause Of AMS in Ladakh
AMS is a direct result of exposure to lower percentage of oxygen at high altitude. As altitude increases, level of oxygen present in the air starts to get lower which led our body to increase breathing rate. This is the reason, we start huff and puff so easily in mountains. The level of Oxygen in blood remains the same as is required at the time doing some daily household activity.
When you spend sufficient time in high altitude, your body get accustomed to low oxygen and there will be no stress and not any symptoms of AMS at all. It can be done by gradually increasing altitudes so that our bodies can adapt to high altitude.
Symptoms of AMS in Ladakh
The symptoms of AMS starts appearing soon after you move to a higher altitude and it depends upon how bad someone is affected by it. Depending on the symptoms, AMS can be categorised into three segments Mild, Medium and Severe.
- Mild symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, breathing trouble, nausea, headache, lethargy, interrupted sleep and lack of appetite. These symptoms are not dangerous but they can turn life-threatening within a matter of hours. Come back to lower altitude immediately and cure yourself with medicines.
- Medium level sickness symptoms include high altitude headache, ataxia and shortness of breath (even while resting). You should come down to at least 300 to 600 m and cure this with medicines.
- Severe symptoms of AMS are unable to walk, severe lethargy, loss of focus, fluid in lungs and decreasing mental status. This can only be sorted by coming down around 600 to 1200 meters.
Tips For Better Acclimatization
- Gradual increase in the altitude: After reaching 10,000ft, one should spend a night over every 1000 ft going ahead upwards and a full day after every 3000 ft. You should plan your trip so that the altitude gain happens gradually.
- Keep Yourself Hydrated: Instead of plain water, Consume ORS water, soup, milk, tea and juice to keep oxygen level normal. Avoid too much of coffee or black tea.
Also don’t force anyone to drink water or they will vomit or worse.
- Avoid Smoking & Alcohal Consumption: Alcohol is dangerous in extreme cold, especially on high altitudes. Contrary to what people believe, alcohol does not make you warmer. It dehydrates you very quickly. Hence consumption of alcohol can be dangerous.
- Sleeping Habits: It is advisable to sleep at lower altitude, at least lower than the highest point you have crossed that day. It is because when you sleep, your body respiratory system falls to breathe properly.
Avoid sleeping during day time and try to indulge in other activities.
- Keep your energy level high and don’t over-exert: Your body should always high on energy level, so keep dry fruits and chocolates and consume a diet that is rich in carbohydrate as you get around 70% of your calories from it.
Avoid any kind of over exertion or unnecessary physical activity.
- Keep your body warm: One of the important factors of survival and avoid AMS is keeping your body warm. Wear at least 3 to 4 layers of woollen clothes instead of a single heavy jacket. Always keep you clothes dry and make sure to keep your head and ears covered all the time.
- Try sleeping in upright position: Keep your body and head straight on the wall while sleeping. You can also take two pillows so that your head will above from the level of your body. Your head will feel much lighter.
- If situation deteriorate, move down quickly: If symptoms of the AMS increase, it could be fatal. So you must down at once which the last and best solution.
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Medicines for AMS in Ladakh
For high altitude sickness, medicines are available in market which will make your body breath faster than usual rate to compensate for the low amount of oxygen. These medicines are precautionary measure and become useless once you start feeling the symptoms.
If you are at risk for a low red blood cell count (anemia), ask your provider if an iron supplement is right for you. Anemia lowers the amount of oxygen in your blood. This makes you more likely to have mountain sickness.
- Diamox: It helps acclimatization process more quickly and reduces minor symptoms. You can take a dose of Diamox, a day before ascent and continue your trip for a couple of days. Since Diamox has various side effects, you should consult your doctor, before taking Diamox.
- Disprin/Aspirin: reduce some of the symptoms of AMS eg. Headaches.
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AMS in various parts of Leh-Ladakh
- Leh: Leh can be one of the places where you are least likely to suffer from AMS, if you travelled by road because you already spent time at high altitudes during your journey to Leh. If you choose to take flight, you should stay some time in Leh to acclimatize yourself.
- Nubra Valley: Due to its lower elevation in comparison to Leh, Nubra Valley has even less chances of AMS.
- Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri: If you are visiting first time to Ladakh, there are chances that you will suffer some symptoms of AMS here, because these lakes are at a high altitude. But if you have properly acclimatized yourself in Leh, you have fewer chances of AMS.
- Srinagar-Leh Highway: Since this route has gradual increase in altitude, there are very low chances of mountain sickness, because your body gets plenty of time to adjust.
- Manali -Leh Highway: This route has steep inclination which led to very high chances of suffering from AMS. To avoid AMS, reach Keylong or Jispa from Manali on Day 1 and Sarchu on Day 2. Don’t stay in Pang village because there are high chances of AMS.