Ladakh is a high altitude cold desert with a low level of atmospheric oxygen. Tourists reaching Leh from the plains of India by air are required to allow time for acclimatization before engaging in any physical activities. While the S.NM. Hospital at Leh is fully equipped and staffed with a team of specialists to take care of any eventuality, the rarefied atmosphere of the area may cause high altitude ailments necessitating evacuation of visitors unable to get acclimatized.
- Anyone travelling to altitudes above 10,000 feets (2,700 M) is liable to suffer from acute mountain sickness (AMS) unless properly acclimatized.
- The most common symptoms of acute mountain sickness are headache, disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, nausea, coughing, irregular breathing, breathlessness, lassitude and lack of concentration.
- If you are reaching Leh by air, it is important to take complete rest for the first 24 hours after arrival. Any kind of physical exertion is to be avoided. Smoking and drinking should also be avoided until you are fully acclimatized. The symptoms of acute mountain sickness generally develop during the first 36 hours, and not immediately upon arrival. Your body should get used to the lower oxygen level of Ladakh after 2 or 3 days as you should have taken the complete rest for the first 24 hours and as much rest as possible during the next 12 hours.
- High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema (HAPO) and High Altitude Cerebral Oedema (HACO) are very serious forms of acute mountain sickness. They are life threatening and warrant immediate medical attention. In such cases, it is advisable to contact the nearest Hospital or Medical Dispensary situated in Major village.