Ladakh Travel Guide – Dealing with Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)

Ladakh is the land of the passes, order of high roads, and bone chilling winds. The journey to the Ladakh Valley becomes an unforgettable memory for all who visit there.

But the stakes remain always high.

One of the many challenges that you will face on your way to Ladakh is Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). In this Ladakh Travel Guide article, we will discuss in detail how to avoid the AMS get into your head and what are best practices you need to follow to overcome this challenge.

According to U.S National Library of Medicine, AMS is defined as an illness that can affect mountain climbers, hikers, skiers, or travelers at high altitude (typically above 8,000 feet or 2,400 meters).

When you start your journey from Manali, just after 15 kilometers towards the Rohtang Pass, you enter the AMS Zone. And the highest point on your journey towards Ladakh on this route is close to 5500 meters, the Tanglang La Pass!

So you need to be well prepared and alert all the times. Symptoms of AMS are slow and you need to nip the evil in the bud. We will show you how!

AMS FAQS: Here we have few FAQs listed below that will help you to identify and tackle AMS issues.

  • What is AMS and itstypes?
    AMS comprises of three components namely Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS),  High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE). HAPE and HACE could be life threatening and must be addressed at the earliest.
  • What are the primary symptoms of AMS?
    a) fast breathing,
    b) frequent urge to urinate even
    c) Nauseating feeling and persistent headache
    d)  Insomnia and lack of appetite
    e) Swelling of hands, feet, and face
  • What are the secondary/severe (HAPE/HACE) symptoms of AMS?
    a) Fever and breathing problem
    b)  Dry cough
    c) Unconsciousness
    d) Retinal hemorrhage
    e) Abnormal heartbeat and panting
  • When do signs of AMS Occur?
    The signs and symptoms of AMS appear above 2000 meters. As you go high in the mountains, amount of oxygen in the air decreases (air density) and that causes nauseating feeling. At altitudes above 3500 meters, severe AMS symptoms may appear.
  • What should be my first step when AMS symptoms occur?
    Avomine, Diamox, Dexamethasone, and Acetazolamide are some of the most commonly used medicines that provide relief in AMS. However, if you are allergic to any of these drugs, do not use them. Use ibuprofen in case of headache and nausea.
  • Any preventive measures?
    a) Drink as much water as you can
    b) Do not gain abrupt height in one day, keep your ascent rate close to 500-600 metrs from the previous night
    c) Avoid smoking and alcohol consumption in the valley
    d) Do not use sleeping pills. Relax and let your brain follow its natural course

TheOKTravel Tip: Even if you are feeling nauseated and drowsy, talk to people in your group. Interact with people, divert your mind, it helps in easing the pain and drowsiness. If you are riding/driving solo, talk to the locals. They always have great stories to share.

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By: Goel Tarun on Tuesday, July 31st, 2012