Acclimatization

Ladakh is a high altitude cold desert with a low level of atmospheric oxygen. It is, therefore, absolutely necessary that visitors reaching Leh from the plains of India by air, give themselves sufficient time for acclimatization before engaging in any physical activity. The rarefied atmosphere may cause high altitude ailments like Acute Mountain Sickness, necessitating instant evacuation of visitors who are unable to get acclimatized. Anyone travelling to altitudes above 10,000 ft (2,700 m) is liable to suffer from acute mountain sickness (AMS) unless properly acclimatized. The most common symptoms of acute mountain sickness are headache, disturbed sleep and loss of appetite, nausea, coughing, irregular breathing, breathlessness, lassitude and lack of concentration. If you are reaching Leh by air, it is important to take complete rest for the first 24 hours after arrival. Any kind of physical exertion is to be avoided. Smoking and drinking should also be avoided till you are fully acclimatized. The symptoms of acute mountain sickness generally develop during the first 36 hours, and not immediately upon arrival. Your body should get used to the lower oxygen level of Ladakh after 2 or 3 days if you have taken complete rest for the first 24 hours and as much rest as possible during the next 12 hours.

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Many times people go up to 8000 feet without any problems, the problem comes when the altitude increases. The intake of Oxygen becomes less and therefore the breathing rate becomes higher. The level of Oxygen in blood remains the same as is required at the time doing some daily household activity. When one spends more time in high altitude and accustoms himself with such Oxygen changes, this is called as Acclimatization. Different people will acclimatize at different rates and thus there is no comparison.

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.