Every summer thousands of tourists regularly visit Leh situated at a height of 3524 metres (11,562 feet) and the Khardung La, one of the world’s highest passes 5,602 metres (18,380 feet), from across India and around the world without any problems.
Still the altitude can be a problem for some people.
We recommend that you arrive between seven to 10 days ahead of race day to get used to the altitude of Leh and the run to the Khardung La if that is your race. Acclimatization takes time and if there are any concerns about the effects of high altitude sickness we recommend that you consult your doctor and medical experts familiar with it.
The main cause of altitude sickness is the inability to adapt to the lower level of oxygen in the air the higher you go.
Mild symptoms of high altitude sickness include light-headedness, headaches and breathlessness, something that is common even among the locals who have spent a long time at a lower altitude. When these symptoms are accompanied by nausea, dizziness, severe cough, swelling of face/hands (due to water retention), and disorientation, medical treatment is recommended.
The best cure for serious cases of high altitude sickness is for the patient to take the next flight out of Leh to New Delhi.
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 you take it easy and try not to do much on arrival in Leh mild symptoms of altitude sickness is common not a cause for concern.
Acclimatization or taking time to get used to the high altitude is the best thing to do.
The more serious conditions of High Altitude sickness are High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE).
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 to quickly get to a lower altitude. Hospitalization and medical care comes after the descent.
High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE): Symptoms include 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.
High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE): It is the swelling of the brain due to damage of brain tissues. The symptoms are headaches, disorientation, irritability, and loss of appetite. HACE is rare but can be sudden and severe. Sudden collapse and death can happen within hours.
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