Monday, June 12, 2017

How to get Acclimatized in Leh

Leh with stunning landscapes,valleys and age old monuments in every direction, is the perfect place to totally get lost in the magical Himalayas. Also, a base camp to several nearby destinations- Nubra, Pangong Tso, Kargil, Zanskar, Tso Moriri et al.  However, it requires some bit of preparation as it's a cold desert terrain and high altitude can cause health issues. An individual needs to take precautions to get adjusted to this drastic change in environment and this process is termed as acclimatization.

Leh is not your average tourist destination. One needs to take good care and make efforts to get acclimatized. Acclimatization requires a minimum of two nights stay here. Irrespective of the mode of transport you opt for.

There is a possibility of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) kicking in at higher altitudes where the level of oxygen in air is thin. Most individuals are comfortable for upto 8000 feet and AMS kicks in usually over 10000 feet. While every body responds in different ways to this change in environment, mostly AMS kicks in if one directly travels from real low altitudes to real high altitude in short span of time.

Altitude Categorization:
8-12k high
12-18k very high
18k and more extremely high

Symptoms of AMS:
If you have any of these symptoms that include headache, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, do not ignore them.

In case you have symptoms of AMS, do take 'Diamox' (of course do consult with a Doctor.) If your condition deteriorates rush to SNM hospital. When you are suffering from AMS symptoms, sleeping over it will worsen it. The best thing to do in such a case would be to immediately descend, move to lower altitude.

Also, a natural remedy for fighting AMS is having raw garlic bulbs. 
A few precautionary steps would ensure you have a fabulous trip in High altitude India.

Gradual Increase/Ascent in Altitude-
The best thing would be to move slowly getting used to high altitude rather than rushing to reach Leh. If you opt for the Srinagar route to reach Leh, Kargil would be ideal for over night halt. If you opt for the Manali- Leh route, Keylong or Jispa would be ideal to stop over for a night halt. Do not stop over at Sarchu or Pang as the altitude is pretty high and the body would have difficulty in adjusting. Kargil, Keylong and Jispa have pretty good stay options.

Minimum stay in Leh for 2-3 days -
It is advised to stay in Leh for a minimum of 48 hours to let your body adapt and especially if you choose to fly directly to Leh.

Do not over exert yourself-
Try and not immediately start hiking or trekking or decide to ride to Nubra or Pangogn Tso the next following day. Give your body enough time and rest for the first two days.

Do not sleep during the day-
Keep yourself involved in activities to avoid sleeping during the day. Respiration decreases during sleep and this may aggravate AMS.

Keep yourself hydrated, not over hydrated-
Ensure that your body is hydrated at all times but do not force yourself to have water. Drink water only when you are thirsty.

Rest well and maintain a healthy balanced diet-
Get enough hours of sleep at night and ensure that head is a little elevated. Keep a pillow below your head so that the head feels light. Try and eat smaller meals and at frequent intervals rather than over eating. Try and carry chocolates, dry fruits with you at all times.

Best to avoid alcohol, tobacco, tea and coffee-
Do not take in tobacco or alcohol and restrict yourself from having tea and coffee as this would further dehydrate you.

Carry preventive medicine-
Ensure that you are carrying preventive medicines with you such as Diamox. Please do not take it even before you face symptoms of AMS. Even if the symptoms kick in, consult a doctor before taking any medication.

Carry Oxygen cylinders-
If possible and you feel the need, you can carry oxygen cylinders with you as well.

Leh is very safe for children as they get acclimatized faster than average adults but do consult a doctor as we are no experts.

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