If you are traveling by air to Leh (alt: 3505 M / 11505 ft.), you must allow a day of complete rest for getting used to the high altitude and low level of atmospheric oxygen. High altitude sickness or Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is a risky condition faced by tourists who do not allow sufficient time for acclimatization upon reaching Leh by air .
The most common symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) are: breathlessness; coughing; disturbed sleep, headache, inability to concentrate; lassitude, loss of appetite, and nausea. The following precautions are necessary to avoid such problems:
Take complete rest for up to 36 hours after arrival
Move about slowly and breathe deeply till your body can get used to lower oxygen levels.
When trekking, do not permit your trekking guide to go any faster than you (and your group) can comfortably move.
TREKKING IN HIGH ALTITUDE
Trekking at High Altitude is very different from that at lower altitudes. If the trek is not well paced, or if the acclimatization is not complete, the trekker falls prey to high altitude sickness. High Altitude Sickness is not something related to one’s physical fitness. The main cause of altitude sickness is inability of persons to adapt to the reduction in the level of oxygen at high altitude.
Mild symptoms of high altitude sickness like lightheaded / headaches and breathlessness is common even among the locals of the area after a long stay in the plains. However, when accompanied with nausea, dizziness, severe cough, swelling of face/hands (due to water retention), and disorientation, medical treatment is sought.
Anyone with severe symptoms would be transferred to the hospital and kept under observation. The only cure for such cases is sending the patient on the next flight to the plains. It is advisable for clients at high altitude to take it easy and rest for the first few days, which would help you in acclimatization. There is no medicine to cure High Altitude Sickness. Diamox has been used to help in acclimatization but it is advisable to consult your physician regarding it as side effects are there especially for those allergic to sulpha drugs. The best is to take plenty of water. Taking of alcohol is not advised at high altitude.
As long as one takes it easy and does not get too adventurous like trying the reach the highest point on arrival, mild symptom as mentioned earlier are common and not a cause for worry. Acclimatization is the best process.
THE MORE SERIOUS CONDITIONS OF HIGH ALTITUDE SICKNESS ARE :
HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) and HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema)
Both these cases can be fatal in less than 24 hours if not diagnosed and treated in time. In both these cases, drugs like dexamethasone and Nifedepine (consult your doctor) are given to ease the symptoms but the ONLY cure is DESCENT, the patient needing immediate hospitalization and medical attention later.
The symptoms are continuous headache with dizziness accompanied by racking cough (fluid in the lungs), loss of appetite. It commonly affects the un-acclimatized especially who venture too quickly into the high mountain regions.