Ladakh is one of the most pictures places in India and it is always exciting for me to visit Ladakh. However, one of the biggest challenges people face is getting acclimatised to the surrounding. Due to the altitude, which is 10,000 feet and above if precaution is not taken people may suffer from AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness), dizziness or headaches.
Remember if you fly or drive to higher altitudes directly, then sickness is pretty common. If you continue higher directly things can get more serious. AMS is the thing most of the people are not prepared for because they are not used to it at lower altitudes.
The scarcity of oxygen at a great height is the major cause of Acute Mountain Sickness in Ladakh. Decreased air pressure and lower levels of oxygen are quite common at higher altitude. When you scale such heights, your body may not get enough time to adapt to the changing surroundings. This is what leads to acute mountain sickness. Besides this, the level of exertion you undergo also plays an important role. Activities which demand great physical efforts like trekking, hiking, mountaineering contribute towards causing AMS at great heights.
How to know you are getting AMS
Some of the common symptoms are fatigue, headache, stomach illness, sleep disturbance, nausea, stomach illness and dizziness. These symptoms may vary from person to person. Some may get a headache with swelling of feet, hands and face while other may have nose bleeding accompanied by a headache. Usually, these symptoms may last till two days or a week; a few of them may indicate life-threatening AMS. The symptoms which indicate such a situation are related to cerebral edema and pulmonary edema.
How to avoid AMS
Getting acclimatised is the best way to avoid AMS. If you arrive by air keep one day just for acclimatisation. Rest well, don’t exert, have good food and drink sufficient water. Even if you are doing a road trip does not exert, take it easy, chill, relax and let your body adjust to heights and low oxygen levels.
Medicine to take or carry
Diamox – Diamox helps the body to breathe faster hence accelerating the acclimatization process. Take it as a preventive medicine and not once you start feeling AMS.
Suggested Quantity – 125-250 mg twice a day
Side Effects – tingling in toes and fingers, numbness, vomiting, nausea, frequent urination etc.
Aspirin/Disprin – Aspirin and Disprin work as blood thinners and enable your blood to carry more oxygen.
Dexamethasone – Dexamethasone also helps in overcoming AMS. Suggested Quantity – 2-4 mg after every 6 hours
Oxygen Cylinders – One must carry portable oxygen cylinders easily available at the chemist shop to avoid AMS.
Hospitals in case of AMS
Acute Mountain Sickness can hit anybody at higher altitude. Thus, it becomes really necessary to keep a note of nearby hospitals and dispensaries. The Sonum Norbu Memorial Hospital ((91)-1982-252014, 253629) in Leh and Medical Dispensaries at Mulbek, Drass, Sankoo, Trespone, Padum and Panikhar can be sought after in case of AMS.
Note – These medicines are only a recommendation. Do consult an experienced doctor before taking them. If the symptoms still persist, it’s better to drop the idea of moving further and one should plan to descend to a lower altitude.
Apart from this allopathic medicine, natural remedies like Clove, Garlic and Ginger can be used to alleviate AMS.
AMS can hit anybody anywhere but there are some areas where there are high chances of suffering from AMS.
Pangong Tso, 4,350 m (14,270 ft).
Tso Moriri, at an altitude of 4,522 m (14,836 ft).
Changthang, at an altitude of 14,846 ft above sea level
Tanglang La, elevation 5,328 metres (17,480 ft)