How I got altitude sickness in the city of Leh

leh

In my case, altitude sickness began around 2 hours before we arrived to Leh, capital city of Ladakh in India. I woke up in the minivan with headache, but that time I didn’t realize I experience symptoms of altitude sickness. I just though I got migraine because of dehydration.

Rab Yang guest house

Rab Yang guest house

When we got off the minibus we had no idea where to go. We didn’t know where the touristic area of the city is. As we climbed up the hill  from the bus station to the city center with our heavy backpacks, my headache was getting stronger. All of us were so tired after 40 hours journey from Manali, that during first exchange of views about guest houses we fought so much that one of my  friend left us and went to find accommodation on his own.

I and my friend then continue walking up and asking people about some accommodations. When we finally came to the area where guest houses are situated, at the beginning we wasn’t lucky, because everything was either expensive or already full. One nice local woman recommended us Rab Yang Guest House. And I am sure that staying there was the best decision we could make.

Owner (his name is Colto) with his family welcomed us warmly. He gave us nice room, good price and immediately bring us herbal tea. From that moment this family became my second family – my Himalayan family.

Colto's family

Colto’s family

But..after hours of walking in the sun and trying to find accommodation I felt badly. My headache became unbearable; my eyes were sensitive to light and I was nauseous. Colto asked me what is wrong with me. When I explained him how I feel, he immediately stated that I got altitude sickness! He told me that I shouldn’t move from my bed for at least 24 hours.

Altitude sickness is very unpleasant, because there is no medicine that can help you. So I suffered all night. It was one of the worst nights ever.

And how I felt? Really badly!! My headache was maybe 10 times stronger like I experienced before, I felt that my head and neck were swollen and I felt pulse on those parts of my body. My breathing was very slow. Actually I realized each inhalation and each exhalation. Under the normal circumstances breathing is automatically controlled, but during altitude sickness you are aware of it. I had dry blood in my nose and throat. And there was one aspect of altitude sickness, which were extremely uncomfortable – psychological issue. All the time, but especially at night, I had anxiety and panic attacks. I thought I am going to die. It was real human suffering without any possibility to ged rid of that.

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Colto took care about me all the time

The next morning I felt better. I still had headache and pressure in my head and neck, but not so strong like the day before and during the night. I lay in bed all day and all night. I went only to the toilet. Colto was in charge, controlled me, prepared herbal tea and took care of me. While I was lying in the bed, the pain gradually disappeared.  But when I stood up I immediately got sharp pain to my head and my head was spinning.

The day after I finally stood up in the morning and I felt strong enough to go for a short walk to the city. My altitude sickness was cure!

Before I went to Himalayas I read a lot about altitude sickness, but I never thought how bad it could be. I think none of the people who didn’t have personal experience with altitude sickness cannot imagine how horrible one can feel and I would not wish my worst enemy to get it.

Every human body reacts different to altitude sickness. If you have your own experience, please write about that below.

General information about altitude sickness:

Symptoms:

Symptoms of altitude sickness usually develop between 6 and 24 hours after ascending to high altitude.

Mild altitude sickness

Common symptoms of mild altitude sickness (sometimes called acute mountain sickness) can be similar to a hangover. The symptoms are usually worse at night.

headache

nausea and vomiting

dizziness

tiredness

loss of appetite

upset stomach

feeling unsteady

shortness of breath

increased heart rate

difficulty sleeping

generally feeling unwell

 

Severe altitude sickness:

worsening of the symptoms described above

a persistent cough

breathlessness (even when resting)

a bubbling sound in the chest

coughing up pink or white frothy liquid

clumsiness and difficult walking

irrational behaviour

double visions

convulsions

drowsiness

confusion

Severe symptoms could mean you’re developing cerebral oedema or pulmonary oedema. These are potentially life-threatening complications of altitude sickness!

 

What to do if you have symptoms:

If you have symptoms of mild altitude sickness, don’t go any higher for 24 – 48 hours. If your symptoms don’t improve or get worse during this time, you should descend immediately.

Severe altitude sickness is a medical emergency. Someone with severe symptoms should immediately descend to a low altitude and seek medical help.

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4 Comments

  1. rosemarie_cristi@yahoo.com' Rose Marie says:

    HI

    found by chance your page, very interesting. You have been in some places i myself have been, so it was a pleasure for me to read your posts.
    Regarding altitude sickness: First I would like to know at what altitude is Leh located.
    Ihad this problem sith altitude sickness in Chile, during a day trip up to Isluga Volcano and Colchane, near the Bolivian border. Altitude is about 4.200 meter. My sickness started at 4000 meter, first with an easy headache and very low dizziness this happened while approaching the Puchuldiza , then it became worse, with my stomach upset down and I ended up with vomiting while reaching Isluga. The stomach was so upset that I wasn’t able to eat for lunch and even if I hadn’t any breathing problem, the guide put me the oxygen mask (they carry it in the bus always on this itinerary) telling me this will improve. It didn’t much, maybe a little. I recovered completely in the moment I reached Iquique, the city from where i started my travel. So except heavy headache, vomiting and upset stomach, no other symptoms occurred. And even so I was able to walk with the group. I was very surprised as I was sure I will never experience such, on sea or while flying I never had any problem. But we cannot control body all time. Anyway It was one of my most beautiful day trips I made in Chile, despite of this incident.

    Have you traveled also in South India, to Kerala and Tamil Nadu states? If not you should! :)

    Well, wishing you many many more nice travels.

    Best regards

    Rose

    • Katarina says:

      Hi Rose Mary! Thank you very much for your reply, I am glad you like my blog. Yes, you had alitude sickness as well. But it is amazing how can people enjoy traveling despite of health problems – Ladakh is still one of my favorite places. One of my friends had similar symptoms as you – his stomach was not able to recieve any food, so he ended up in hospital. AS has different effect on every person. Well, Leh is at an altitude of 3524 metres, but problem is to get there from Manali throught 4 passes which are at alitude more as 5000 metres and all journey takes around 40 hours.
      I have never traveled south India so far, but it is on my bucket list as well as the rest of our planet. :)
      I am also wishing you all the best on your journeys!
      Best regards,
      Katarina

  2. rmadaan371@gmail.com' Rahul says:

    Hi katarina… First of all thanx for posting such a helpful post about altitude sickness. M planning to visit leh with in next 4-5 days. M a former anxiety suffrer. I was suffered from panic attacks but now m almost cured. But i get panic when my heart rate goes up. But normally m ok with fit weight and good blood pressure. I normally never get my heart rate up. It will go up when i get panic. So in your opinion is it safe to visit leh or should i cut this thought from my mind. M just confused that if i get some serious health problem. In older days i had phobia of heart anxiety but i checked with doctor and he assured me that my heart is in fine condition. But i panic when my heart rate goes up.. Thanx in advance😊

    • Katarina says:

      Hi Rahul! Thank you very much for your comment and I am glad that you like my post about altitude sickness. Actually I can’t tell you what to do in your case; you should consult it with your doctor. Panic attack is psychical problem, so it can happen when you are in the middle of nowhere like on the way from Manali to Leh or in some remote areas in Ladakh. In your case I recommend you to stay mostly in city Leh, where you can find emergency if something serious happen or if you will get sudden panic attack.

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