Yes. A preventive course of Diamox is most advisable for Chadar Trek.
Trekkers and mountaineers all over the world use Diamox (a medicine called Acetazolamide) to acclimatize faster at high altitudes.
At high altitudes above 8000 feet, the air is thinner and there is less oxygen in the same volume of air. This makes breathing difficult as you aren’t able to inhale as much oxygen as you would at low altitudes.
This can lead to Altitude Mountain sickness or AMS as it is commonly known.
Altitude Mountain sickness can at times become a serious medical condition and if ignored can be fatal.
It is not dependent on the age or sex of an individual and can happen to anyone. It cannot be predicted and if you have traveled to a high altitude place and haven’t had it, it doesn’t mean you won’t develop it on another trip.
It usually occurs when you reach a high altitude place by traveling too quickly.
For Chadar trek you will reach directly by flight to Leh as Ladakh is not accessible by road during the winter months. Leh is at an altitude of 11,300 feet and anything above 8000 feet is considered to be a high altitude
I did my Chadar trek in January 2018 with a local agency Altitude Adventure India and I was very much concerned about AMS.
Fortunately, I didn’t get AMS but there were other trekkers in my batch who had AMS symptoms.
The symptoms of AMS include:
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Shortness of breath
The symptoms are usually worse when you are lying down and are more aggravated at night when you are sleeping.
These trekkers could not fully enjoy the trek as they constantly had a headache each day of the trek.
Diamox helps you acclimatize faster by increasing your breathing rate. It definitely reduces the probability that you may not be hit by AMS during the Chadar Trek.
Dosage: Have 125 mg (half a tablet) every 12 hours. It is suggested to start the dosage 2 days prior to your trek (before you arrive in Leh). Increase it to 250 mg (full tablet) every 12 hours if the symptoms increase after 24 hours of your arrival in Leh. Continue the dosage until you complete the trek and reach home.
Don’t stop the Diamox course in between the trek.
Side effects: There are negligible side effects of taking Diamox. You feel a numbness/tingling sensation in your hands, face, and feet. You urinate more often (an indication that the medicine is doing its job).
While Diamox reduces the chances of AMS hitting you, it isn’t guaranteed that you won’t have AMS.
It’s important that along with Diamox you prepare your body (lungs) to function well before arriving for Chadar trek. You have to increase your cardiovascular endurance so that your lungs function with lesser oxygen.
Drink lots of water or liquids like soups and green tea to avoid AMS. Hydration helps your body function smoothly and increase the oxygen level in the bloodstream. You need to drink at least 4 liters of liquids every day on the Chadar trek.
Note: Strictly avoid Alcohol and Smoking as both cause dehydration and that’s the last thing you need on your Chadar Trek!!