Leh is stunning in its beauty and is everything they say it is. One thing that most are not prepared for when they visit is AMS. Acute Mountain Sickness is the mildest form of Altitude Sickness and needs to be taken seriously. All the hotels and travel advisors ask you to take the it easy on the first day. Please do heed this advice because they really do know best. Your body needs plenty of rest and simple, nourishing food to help it acclimatise. The symptoms of AMS that you might experience on the first day include any/ all of these – headache, tiredness, feeling out of breath, dizziness, nausea, trouble sleeping. Do not ignore any of these symptoms or try to push your body beyond its capacity. Severe AMS leads to HAPE / HACE [ High altitude pulmonary edema/ cerebral edema] and you do not want this to happen at any time.
AMS can be helped by keeping your activity slow, getting rest, keeping yourself well covered and protected from the cold and eating a carbohydrate rich diet. Try to sleep in an upright position till you get acclimatised to the altitude. Sherpas in Nepal and the locals in Ladakh suggest garlic soup and for good reason. Garlic is extremely helpful in combating symptoms of mountain sickness. Keep Diamox tablets handy but please do not self medicate without consulting a doctor. Camphor, which is easily available at most hotel receptions and shops helps a great deal in helping you breath better. Try to avoid any form of alcohol and make sure to keep yourself hydrated. Drinking hot water, soups, ginger tea helps. Do not go overboard on the liquids too and make sure you maintain an electrolyte balance. Get your haemoglobin levels checked and looked into before you visit a place that has extremely high altitudes because being anaemic will only make it worse for you. Do not ignore headaches or a feeling of heaviness. Disprin/ Aspirin helps a great deal as they act as blood thinners too. Keep all basic medication with you but check that your anti nausea medication does not cause breathlessness. Combiflam and other Nsaids are helpful for headaches. A juice of pomegranate and beets had since a month/ fortnight before your trip can help a great deal. You can also start consuming a couple of raw garlic pods every morning before you are to begin your trip.
Other things you can do include a cardio routine to get yourself in shape. Coca is a popular homeopathic remedy but again, do not self medicate and only take it under medical guidance. Also, understand that you might test positive for cocaine after ingesting this. Be careful. Oxygen cylinders are available at most chemist shops and quite a few hotels at high altitudes. Make use of them if you feel the need. High altitudes are likely to give you digestive issues too so make sure to carry your anti spasmodics/ anti gas medication.
Other things that you need to watch out for in Leh are the cold, dry winds and the sun. Make sure to use plenty of moisturiser, cold creams and whatever else you can lay your hands on. Your skin and hair are likely to bear the brunt of the weather. Keeping hair tied and well conditioned helps. On that note, make sure to not take a bath with extremely hot water when you’re trying to acclimatise. Get your hair dry as soon as possible. Basic common sense but the risk is very big when you’re in a place like Ladakh. Keep your head covered because the sun is relentless and can contribute to headaches along with the biting wind. Sunglasses and a high spa sunblock are your best friends. Use them often and liberally. Keep your lips moisturised too because it does not take long for mildly dry lips to go to cracked and bleeding in a dry and cold place. Try to carry a nasal saline spray and keep your nasal membranes hydrated or the dry winds are likely to give you nose bleeds.
Now that all the bases are taken care of, enjoy the gorgeous landscapes of Ladakh!