Acute Mountain Sickness In Ladakh and How To Deal With It!
Sometimes, a heaven-like spot such as Ladakh may also cause a bit of distress to your body. After all, no one is accustomed to living in the heavens and hence, being in Ladakh could make you feel uncomfortable. Put simply, travelling in higher altitudes causes breathlessness and headache along with nausea as our body is not accustomed to living in higher altitudes (heavens). This condition in higher altitudes is known as altitude sickness. The condition is not very rare and many people have experienced acute mountain sickness in Ladakh.
Getting hit by acute mountain sickness in Ladakh is possibly the last thing one would want. Nothing is fun when you suffer from such a sickness. So, if no fun is to be compromised, it is better to be well prepared and be aware with regard to acute mountain sickness while travelling in Ladakh. Here, you will be provided with enough information about the condition and how to deal with it when you are at higher altitude. You will also be enlightened about the treatment of the same.
What Exactly Is Acute Mountain Sickness ?
Sudden exposure to higher altitudes with a low-pressure and a lesser amount of oxygen in the air causes hypoxia; it is a condition wherein organs of the body are deprived of the adequate amount of oxygen that is needed to carry out the vital functions in the body. Similarly, when we travel to Ladakh, we get exposed to a low amount of oxygen and experience the same condition of acute mountain sickness. Usually, the condition has been reported by people above 8000 ft. However, people who are not used to higher altitudes are likely to experience this sickness even at lower heights.
Acute mountain sickness abbreviated as AMS is one of the subsets of altitude sickness; the other being chronic mountain sickness. Severe cases of acute mountain sickness can become life-threatening by progressing to pulmonary edema, in which water gets accumulated in the lungs.
What are the Symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness?
The condition usually begins with a state of confusion and tiredness. However, early symptoms of AMS may vary from person to person. We have listed down all possible symptoms of the sickness that will help you prepare well before your trip to Ladakh:
- Muscle ache
- Wheezing while breathing
- High heartbeat and breathing rate.
- Bluish discoloration of the skin
- Trouble in walking
- State of irritation and confusion
- Chest tightening
Now that we know what acute mountain sickness in Ladakh would feel like, we can proceed further to know about its prevention and cure.
How Should You Deal With Acute Mountain Sickness?
This section is divided into two parts, prevention and treatment.
Preventing things has always been better than curing them. This also goes while dealing with acute mountain sickness. As nobody would want to waste their time on treating the sickness while they are in Ladakh, preventing it from hitting is the first thing to do. Avoiding activities which increase the chances of acute mountain sickness and involving in activities that reduce its chances are two ways to prevent it. Here is a list of things to prevent acute mountain sickness in Ladakh;
- Avoid intense physical activities in the first two days in Ladakh
- Avoid use of alcohol, drugs and sleeping pills; these will alter the respiratory process and initiate acute mountain sickness.
- Return to a lower altitude if needed.
- Adjust to a low-level of oxygen by climbing at a slower rate.
- Do not intake antioxidants as they are ineffective against AMS.
- Carry supplemental oxygen in bottles or small container
- Take a dose of Diamox for the first two days. It contains salt called acetazolamide that makes the blood acidic which in turn increases oxygen in the blood.
- Consider training in altitude tents which have stimulated conditions of higher altitudes.
- Carry Ibuprofen and Imitrex tablets. These are used to treat pain, migraine and other headaches.
- Drink ample amounts of water and stay hydrated.
Treatment of acute mountain sickness starts with descending. Once you feel that you are hit by AMS, you may begin descending as soon as possible. It will not allow the condition to become severe and will even make you feel better. Further, there are other tested treatments for AMS as well. You can know about them here:
- Gamow Bag: It is a sealed bag which is used to lower effective altitude. This bag is portable and is called a hyperbaric bag. It is used to treat severe cases of AMS.
- Acetazolamide: This medicine increases the flow of oxygen in the blood and pacifies the symptoms.
- Artificial Oxygen Enrichment: Supplying oxygen to the body using cylinders improves the conditions by oxygenation and reduces the symptoms.
- Other Pills: Nifedipine, Sumatriptan, Paracetamol and Ibuprofen are other such drugs that can help in relieving the condition of AMS. These drugs are only to be taken after seeing a doctor.
To truly enjoy your visit to Ladakh, you must be both aware and prepared for acute mountain sickness. A little carelessness can totally spoil the party for you and you would remember visiting Ladakh for all wrong reasons. Therefore, take precautions and enjoy your trip.
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