Altitude Sickness or acute mountain sickness is a condition that commonly affects people who travel to higher altitudes. As you are aware, the level of oxygen reduces as the altitude increases, and symptoms of altitude sickness are observed in people traveling to higher altitudes. Some of the common symptoms are headaches, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, and dizziness.
If you are planning a trip to Ladakh, which is approximately between 9500 feet to 18000 feet above sea level, it’s really essential to understand altitude sickness and its prevention.
This article aims to provide a basic understanding of altitude sickness, its symptoms, and how you can prevent it during your Ladakh Trip.
What is Altitude Sickness?
Altitude Sickness is a condition due to which your body faces discomfort when it doesn’t adjust to the low availability of oxygen due to higher altitude. To compensate lack of oxygen, your body increases the heart rate and breathing rate. This is quite normal and thus acclimatization is suggested so that the body can adjust to these changes in heart and breathing rate. However, in some cases, the body does not adjust to the altitude as expected and can show some of the below-mentioned symptoms.
Symptoms of Altitude Sickness
The symptoms of altitude sickness can vary from one person to another, but a few of the common symptoms are listed below:
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of appetite
In a few severe cases, like high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE) which results in swelling of the brain. Another severe form of altitude sickness is high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), which results in a build-up of fluid in the lungs. Thus, it must not be taken lightly.
Preventing Altitude Sickness During Your Ladakh Trip
Follow below mentioned steps to prevent altitude sickness during your trip to Ladakh.
1. Gradual Ascent:
One of the best ways to prevent getting sick at high altitudes is to ascend slowly. It’s recommended that you acclimate to the altitude by spending a few days at a lower altitude before traveling to a higher altitude. Thus plan your itinerary in such a way that you spend at least 2 days in Leh, and then go to higher altitude places like Khardung-La and Pangong Tso.
Ladakh is a place that has to offer something for everyone. However, while traveling in groups, people tend to add so many activities to their daily itinerary, that they forget to consider that It’s essential to get plenty of rest when you’re at a high altitude. Because of this, many people start to get headaches, nausea, and fatigue.
It is suggested if you are visiting Ladakh plan a long trip of 7-10 days, as you have to keep sufficient time to rest your body at the end of each day.
Apart from Leh city, if you are traveling to other far places like Khardung-La, Pangong Tso, Turtuk, etc, time spent on the road can extend from 4hr to 6hr. And if you get unlucky due to landslides, road construction, or heavy snowfall, there are chances you may get stuck on the roadblock for hours. When you’re at a high altitude, you lose more water through your breath and urine, so it’s crucial to drink enough water to stay hydrated. Thus to avoid altitude sickness, water is a must to have item on your checklist.
If you feel you or any of your fellow travelers are at risk of altitude sickness, consult a doctor for the medications. There are several medications available that can help prevent altitude sickness, including acetazolamide and dexamethasone.
Also, always pack a first aid kit while traveling to Ladakh. As, apart from a few places like Leh City and Diskit, medical stores are not available in far places like Pangong Tso and Turutuk. You may also purchase portable oxygen cans from Leh City on your arrival.
Frequently asked question :
Can i take oxygen on a plane?
If you are traveling by Air, do not carry portable oxygen can with you. As you will be asked to remove it during check-in procedures at the airport. Oxygen cans can be purchased from the medical stores in Leh city market.
5. Proper nutrition:
Eating a balanced diet that is rich in carbohydrates and low in fat can help prevent altitude sickness. Carbohydrates provide the energy your body needs to adjust to the altitude, while fat can slow down the digestive process. Thus, do not indulge in junk food that comes out of a packet. Try to eat local cuisine like Thupka (noodle soup often made with vegetables), Chutangi (Buckwheat noodles served with vegetables or meat), Skyu (traditional Ladakhi pasta dish), Paba (roasted barley flour mixed with butter tea), yak cheese, etc
Altitude sickness is a common condition that can affect people who travel to high-altitude locations. If you’re planning a trip to Ladakh, it’s essential to understand altitude sickness and take steps to prevent it. By following the tips outlined in this article, you can help ensure a safe and enjoyable trip to this beautiful high-altitude moonland of India.
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