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Acclimatization in Leh Ladakh

Getting accustomed to high altitudes that is acclimatization is one of the most significant things when you are travelling to Ladakh.  As most of the destinations and attractions of Ladakh including Leh are positioned on the high altitudes, above 10, 000 feet, tourists and other visitors might suffer from headaches, dizziness and Acute Mountain Sickness or AMS. Thus, a little planning for acclimatization to the high altitudes of Ladakh surely becomes one of the most important things to do during your Ladakh tour.

Nuzzles amid the daunting Himalayas and Karakomram mountain ranges, Ladakh is known for offering some spellbinding views of the nature’s beauty. However, traversing through such high-altitudes becomes a difficult task and they suffer from conditions like dizziness, vomiting etc., losing the chance of enjoying themselves. While some visitors are able to handle themselves, the others cannot.

Sickness during Ladakh visit is a common occurrence, when drives or flies to high-altitude areas directly. The result in such cases is clear. In case, they do not stop there itself for some time and go higher, their condition gets worse. So, before planning a tour to Ladakh, it is necessary that you make yourself aware about altitude sickness and how you can take care yourself.

Altitudes and Acute Mountain Sickness

Here are the scales of Altitude:

8,000 – 12,000 feet (High)

12,000 – 18,000 feet (Very High)

18,000 feet and above (Extremely High)

Most of the visitors can go up till 8000 feet easily but the problem occurs after the altitudes rises.  The rate of breathing becomes higher as they intake of Oxygen becomes less. However, Oxygen level in the blood remains same as it is needed when we are doing any routine household activity. When a person spends enough time at such high altitude and adults himself with the available Oxygen level, it is known as Acclimatization. The rate of acclimatization is different people is different and thus making a comparison is not an option.

Acute mountain sickness (AMS) starts above the altitude of 10,000 feet to most of the people. AMS becomes severe as the elevation becomes higher. Try to avoid going to such high altitudes directly. The condition can get worse when one sleeps, since the body respiration decreases.

If you can acclimatize properly- great, if not- move down. Nevertheless, there preventive AMS medicines too which can be consumed after consulting a doctor as there might be side effects.

You can also take test for checking Ataxia. Ask the sick person to walk in a straight line, placing his toe to toe. If that person fails to do that, start moving down immediately.

Guidelines for Better Acclimatization

Following are some tips for better acclimatization:

Slow rise in the altitude

If you follow the rulers of acclimatization, it is said that after hiking up to 10,000 feet, you stay somewhere for one night after you complete every 1000 feet and one full day after completing 3000 feet. If you get easily adjusted to this, you are not going to face trouble any further.

Keep your body properly hydrated

Keep on drinking enough ORS water and other beverages like juice, soup, ear and milk. In the place of plain water, drink garlic flavored water. You can keep garlic pieces in your water bottle. The oxygen levels in your body will be normal like this. Too much of black tea and coffee is a no-no.

Avoid over hydration

Do not force yourself or anyone else to drink water if they are not feeling thirsty. This might lead to vomit or even worse, can lead to cerebral edema, causing confusion, seizures, hyponatremia, coma and weakness.

Avoid sleeping on high altitudes

The respiration drive in one’s body declines when a person sleeps. Thus, it is recommended spend a full day on high altitudes and then descend to lower altitudes in the evening hours.

Do not over- exert yourself

It is advisable that you should avoid over, unnecessary exertion. Do not indulge in any redundant mental or physical activity as it may lead to heavy breathing.

Shun consumption of alcohol, anti-depressant drugs, tobacco and smoking

Avoid smoking or consuming alcohol, tobacco and anti-depressant medications such as sleeping pills, tranquilizers and barbiturates. Consumption of these substances can lead to respiratory problems during sleeping, worsening your condition.

Keep your body warm

Always keep your body warm by wearing ample amount of woolen clothes. Make it a point that your clothes must always be dry.

Consume enough carbohydrates

When you are at high altitudes, it is best that you eat a diet that high in carbohydrates. Our body absorbs 70 percent of calories from carbohydrates.

Avoid sleeping in day time

It is best for you that you completely avoid sleeping in day time. If you feel sleepy, indulge yourself in come activity of your interest.

If it is possible, sleep in upright position

Lay your back against the wall and try to sleep in that position. Another option is of keeping your head on a higher level from the level of your body. Do not flatten your head. Your head will feel lighter if you will place a pillow or two under your head to keep it elevated.

Pack preventive medicine for AMS

As you plan a tour to Ladakh, it is advisable that you should consult your doctor about a suitable AMS preventive medicines for yourself and those accompanying you. Consultation is necessary as there might be side effects. In order to check for likely allergies, try and consumer the medicine a week before your vacation.

If possible, pack a small Oxygen kit

If it is possible, you can pack a small Oxygen cylinder to take care of the symptoms of AMS. It surely is going to help but it is advisable that before using the kit, consult your doctor about the amount of oxygen that has to be inhaled during the trip.  In case of emergency it will largely help. If the condition worsens, you must start moving down without wasting any time.

Symptoms of AMS

Following are the category of symptoms for the levels of AMS with their cure:

AMS Symptoms

AMS Level

Possible cure

Headache, faintness, tiredness, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, vomiting, troubled sleep, and a feeling of sickness


Medication or Descend

Reduced coordination (ataxia), Severe headache (not relieved by medicine), other mild level symptoms with increased effect          




Advanced Medication or Descend  around 305-610 m

Incapability to walk, declining mental status, and fluid build-up in the lungs


Immediate Descend around 610-1,220 m

Should kids and babies be taken to such highaltitudes?

As per studies, it is safe to take your infant but he or she should be at least 3 months old. The infant should not be a premature baby and should not have any sickness. However, it would be best if the baby is at least a year old. Your doctor would be able to advice better.

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