Planning to travel Ladakh with Kids?
After the shooting of 3 Idiots movie at Leh, tourism at Leh/Ladakh has increased considerably. 20 years back, it was a heaven for foreigners and trekkers. But now, this adventurous cold desert witnesses tourists from different parts of India and world.
As I traveled Leh second time, in the last 7 years, I have been flooded with queries as Can we go for a family trip at Leh? Can I take my baby to Leh, though I’m afraid of high altitude and cold? In general, the question around, Can we take Kids to Leh is doing rounds on my Instagram and Facebook handles. (You can follow them for many similar updates).
In this post, I’m trying to address most of these concerns.
The reason for concerns around Ladakh is due to its high altitude.
Leh is at an altitude of 11562 feet(3500m). With the increase in altitude(more than 2500m), there is lesser Oxygen available to breathe, and hence our body needs to adjust to this less Oxygen.
Often due to lower Air Pressure, Altitude Sickness/ Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) can take over. Well, it is not so that every traveler and kid will have that AMS and neither does any fitness level plays a role here.
What are the symptoms of Altitude Sickness?
While you are traveling to Leh, Spiti Valley or higher altitudes as Mount Kailash (Kailash Mansarovar), you can witness the symptoms as:
- Mild to severe headache, getting worse during nights
- Dizziness, Nausea feeling tired
- Vomiting, heavy breathing/shortness of breath
- In severe cases, you may see blue/gray nails and lips
Planning to travel Meghalaya with kids?
Is it safe to take kids to Leh – Ladakh? Can we Travel Leh – Ladakh with kids?
So now that you’ve got a fair idea of what are the issues due to high altitude, let’s take this question. For kids to know of these symptoms, they ought to be expressive. And I feel that kids above 4years can express with some ease.
Traveling any high altitude regions should be a big No for babies and kids less than 4years. You’ll get perfect ease when kids are 5years and more. This year, I explored Leh with my 4.5year old son, and it was an amazing trip, with no sign of any Altitude Sickness.
Now that if your kid is above 4years, you can plan a trip to Ladakh, quite swiftly. But for that, you need to have certain precautions so that the exploration is seamless.
1. Go slow and gradually increase the Altitude:
This means, traveling Leh via Road Trip is the best way to get acclimatized to increasing altitudes. If you start from Delhi, which is at 700ft, you’ll gradually ascend to 1500ft and 2000ft(Manali) before reaching Leh. This gives the body enough time to adapt to the decrease in oxygen at a higher altitude.
Read out our experiences of
Well, with kids, many times, the road trip may not seem feasible. It happened the same with me and we opted for a direct flight from Delhi to Leh. Let me tell you that was a change of altitude from 700ft to 11500 ft and too within an hour.
2. Consult your pediatrician:
Any person, be it a kid or an adult, male or female, can be prone to Altitude sickness. So before taking Kids to higher altitude places, Ladakh here, always discuss the same with your pediatrician. For adults, Diamox is the safest medicine that can be taken a day prior to your journey. But for Kids, my pediatrician didn’t recommend any medicine, except 24hour acclimatization.
3. Take rest:
I know that’s a tad difficult for the energetic kids, but then that’s what we need to ensure. Once reaching Leh, rest for one full day. This doesn’t mean that you need to make kids sleep for the whole day. No overexertion, just walk around slowly in your hotel. After lunch, roam outside (slowly) for 10-15minutes. Ensure that kids are not running around, as that may result in breathlessness. Usually, it is said to avoid Bath/ shower, the first day, as the water on the head may result in a headache as the night falls. Sponging is the best on Day1 for kids if you feel so.
4. Keep the body well Hydrated:
Hydration is very important on high altitudes, but that doesn’t mean that you guzzle one full bottle at one time/ask kids to do the same. Drink water slowly, rather sip by sip at equal intervals. Keep a stock of Fruit juices and take it at few intervals (again sip by sip). Don’t over hydrate kids at any time.
5. Proper protection from cold:
Be it May or June, it might be Summers in Leh, still, the winds are chilly. I observed that the mornings were always sunny for us, but soon the winds used to start and by 3 pm, while at Pangong lake, Shanti Stupa, the winds were bone chilling. Keep head, ears, nose all time covered for kids. Ensure sufficient woolens (warm jackets, thermals, caps, nose cover, gloves), as the weather at Ladakh can change within a few minutes.
*If you feel your kid has caught a cold, ensure you give right medication at the right time. Do take a Medical Kit prescribed by your pediatrician for vomiting, cold, cough and fever.
6. Short stays at more high altitudes:
While on your way to Nubra Valley and Pangong lake, you’ll be crossing KhardungLa pass and ChangLa Pass. At more than 18000 ft high, evergreen snow tempts kids and adults equally. But these passes are the most dangerous in your overall trip to Ladakh. Anytime, you’ll feel the chilling snowy air, which is thinnest with very very low oxygen. The more time you spent here, the more are the chances of developing Altitude sickness. We stopped just for 5minutes on both passes, and Arham was outside just for 1 minute to have snow fun. He quickly ran to be inside the car. We were lucky as we got snow sheets at much lower levels, and intentionally we took our fun time at somewhat lower levels only.
Most of the Night stay tents at Pangong Tso lake have been taken off, due to High court order. But I was informed that 2-3 approved ones are still there for night stay. I would say a big NO for the tent stay at Pangong Tso lake if you are with kids. It is freezing cold and the lake itself is at 14k ft high. You can reserve this adventure without kids (preferably)
7. Observe your kid and their behavior:
At times, kids cannot express their dizziness, so keep a note of the behavioral changes. Crying, crankiness, vomits, can be signs of Altitude sickness in kids. If you feel that your child is getting highly uncomfortable, reach out to the local Hotel person for help. Also, keep handy Oxygen cans with you. In emergency situations, coming down to low altitude areas back is the best.
This post is all about my experience traveling to Ladakh with my 4.5yo son and the advice we received locally. We faced no such issue of Altitude sickness. For me, it was the second trip to Ladakh and both times, I ensured proper acclimatization, which resulted in a perfect adventure to this mesmerizing place. Leh should be on everyone’s bucket list and it needs to be ticked off.
Also, it is always recommended to consult your doctor/pediatrician once before you take your kid along to high altitude places.
You can read a few of these articles related to Mountain Sickness before planning a trip to Leh –Ladakh.
Keep Travelling and exploring with kids!