Traveling to Ladakh or High Altitude with Kids or Babies
First and the foremost, its highly recommended that you do not plan and avoid ANY kind of travel (be it high altitude or low altitude or in plains) if your baby or infant* is less than 3+ months old strictly (my personal choice would be only taking a 12+ months old baby). Kids or infants* or Babies* more than 3+ months old, may react to high altitude in a similar manner as an adult and has similar tolerance to high altitude because I guess after three months all the organs of the normally born healthy babies (EXCLUDING premature babies or babies with some health problems) are properly grown including lungs which helps in the respiration. However, always keep in mind that it will be difficult to identify signs of AMS in babies* or infants* or kids due to lack of communication. Hence, you need to be vigilant of your baby’s or kid’s behavior all the time while traveling to high altitude. Although the guidelines or tips for acclimatization mentioned in the link Acute Mountain Sickness and Importance of Acclimatization are applicable for kids or infants* as well but in addition to them you can further follow below guidelines when you take your baby or kid to a high altitude –
Tips for Traveling to Ladakh or High Altitude Places with Kids or Infants* or Babies*
1. You must ascend or gain altitude slowly to allow proper acclimatization. Example, while going to Rohtang Pass (3990 Mtrs) you can have proper acclimatization by staying one or more days at Manali and then one or more days at Solang Valley as well before visiting Rohtang Pass and further regions of Lahaul and Spiti Valleys. It will help acclimatize your as well as your baby’s or kid’s body.
For first few days the night stays must be between the 8000-9000 feet mark, then a couple of days at 10000 feet and then gradually increasing the night stays about 1000 feet each alternate day.
- 2. You must keep him/her properly hydrated (not over hydrated in any case) by taking care of proper liquid intake and feeding including water. Hydrated body is key to acclimatization for both adult as well as kid’s or infant’s* body. Do not over hydrate, read below.
- 3. You must keep him/her protected from cold by sufficient amount of warm or woolen clothes. The kids or infants* must be protected from the cold by enough warm clothes as many of them tends to catch cold easily. If they catch even minor cold then you may (repeat may) find yourself in a difficulty to find proper cure and care for him/her at high altitudes. It may be cause of limited medical facilities or options at such high altitudes. Hence, its always best to protect babies or kids from cold by getting them dressed in extra warm or woolen clothes. Do not take cold of your baby or kid lightly at high altitudes.
- 4. You must cover him well enough from rounded hat to protect his/her soft skin from the sun rays which may cause skin burns. Eyes too must be protected from the reflection of sunrays from snow using the shades because the reflection may cause some irritation in kids or infant’s* eyes. Similarly, the arms must be covered with full sleeves, feet with warm socks and shoes, hands with gloves. In any case, you need to protect the kid or infant* from the sun rays which are strong at high altitudes.
- 5. Keep the visit or stay at very high altitude as short as possible. Example, while going to Rohtang Pass with a kid or infant* you must stay at Rohtang Pass for let’s say about 2-3 hours keeping the stay to bare minimum. Do not forget the time period that may get wasted in traffic jams at such high altitude tourist places. The idea is to keep the stay as short as possible to minimize any chances of altitude sickness.
- 6. If the weather seems bad on a particular day, when you plan to visit high altitude (above 10000 feet) then please avoid the travel on that day and stay at the current altitude only. Take extra care to keep the baby or kid warm with woolen clothes.
- 7. If you notice baby or kid is crying too much or having breathing distress or vomiting or his/her color is changing then immediately descend or get medical help as soon as it is available. This is why it is important to always consult your kid’s or baby’s concerned doctor at home for medication in such cases, before you start the trip with your kid or baby. Carry those medicines from the home town itself and keep them always with you while exploring the region of high altitudes even on day hikes, day visits etc
As long as you follow these guidelines and general guidelines or tips for adults mentioned here, you minimize the chances of altitude sickness getting hit your kid or infant* (above 3+ months age)… Still do consult a doctor before going on the trip with your kid or infant* to high altitude regions
Hydrated body is of utmost importance not over Hydrated (read below) I guess, up to 8000 feet (like up to Manali) there aren’t any major or apparent issues that can be seen with regard to altitude sickness but beyond that altitude (>8000 feet) it is always advised that the body should under go proper acclimatization be it adult or kid or infant.
Having said all that, it is still recommended that you CONSULT A DOCTOR or PHYSICIAN before you take your kid or baby* to a high altitude region just to ensure everything is in right place. Again, these are just my suggestions based on my very limited or negligible knowledge of AMS or mountain sickness but I will definitely suggest you that you consult some physician or doctor before going on the trip because I am not any of them. For more details on the same you MUST READ the links mentioned in the references which explains it in better details
*Infants or babies with age GREATER than 3 months and who are not born prematurely and who do not suffer from heart or lung or any other illness, should only be considered for any kind of traveling be it to high altitude or sea. My personal preference or suggestion is that baby or infant or kid with age greater than 12 months and not suffering from illness shall only be considered for any kind of travel.
I hope the above information will be helpful for you and after going through the above article along with reference links you can wisely decide weather or not you can travel with your baby or kid or infant*. Please feel free to share your valuable thoughts and inputs and suggestions. I would be looking forward to your responses as comments below.