How to deal with acute mountain sickness or AMS in Leh Ladakh

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While a trip to Leh Ladakh sounds fun and adventurous, there are some things you need to be careful of. Because there would be a huge altitude as well as climate change and the oxygen level would be very low, your body might not handle it as well as you expect it to. And this means you might get acute mountain sickness or AMS and that’s never fun.
Ladakh is situated at an altitude higher than 10000 feet. And even if you have never suffered altitude sickness before, high chances are you’d feel dizzy, pukish, tired or get headaches. Hence it is important that you plan to acclimatize to this condition before you plan a trip to Leh Ladakh.
The main cause of people getting acute mountain sickness in Leh Ladakh is due to low level of oxygen. To compensate for this, our body starts working hard and the breathing rate is increased giving rise to the above symptoms. That’s why acclimatization is important which means getting our body used to the high altitude an slow oxygen level. And how do we do that?
Stop frequently – stopping at frequent heights, help your body to get used to the altitude. If you are flying into Leh, take complete rest for min 36 hours and remain hydrated. For this, after every 2400 meters, you should stop for a day at every next 600 meters – these may be figures but very useful when you are driving or riding to Ladakh from Delhi. That is why we say halt at Manali, then Keylong, then Sarchu and then Leh. Likewise, a reason why Srinagar-Leh route is better for AMS issues as elevation changes are far less than Manali-Leh route.
Do not turn the heater on- Yes we know, at this cold temperature, you’d be tempted to switch on the heater of the car. But this would only trigger your acute mountain sickness’s symptoms. Even if you turn on the heater of your car, do it at low temperature.
Carry medicines– There are few medicines available at the chemist shop which might help ease your symptoms. However remember always to take physician’s recommendations before buying any such medicine or you might suffer its side effects.
Drink water– Drink water. Lots of it. There is also a chance that what feels like mountain sickness to you is actually you getting dehydrated. Avoid alcohol or caffeine as they make you more dehydrated. Symptoms of acute mountain sickness are very similar to that of dehydration and hence precaution is the key here.
Eat food high in carbs- even if you are not hungry, eat light but food which is high in carbohydrates. This is because At low oxygen, carb storage of our body is used up at faster rate. When that is used up, we feel fatigued and get headaches.
Happy travelling!

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