Traveling to Ladakh with Kids or Babies

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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.
  • This clearly WARNS that Manali-Leh Highway is definitely not a place to be with a baby or infant* or a kid. Same applies to many other high altitude desolated places including sleeping at Pangong Tso or Tso Moriri, if the body is not thoroughly acclimatized.
  • 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.

Corrections made after valuable suggestions from the pioneer, Vistet linked here(post #12):

I have a number of reservations on the advice in the linked post at # 8 , starting with the dangerous idea of forcing children to drink when they are not thirsty : at best they will vomit ( which will force you to descend ) , at worst they´ll start to develop cerebral edema – either only from water intoxication , or as a mixed result from this and altitude sickness. See for example Peter Hackett ( Everest-climbing doctor and co-author of the CDC altitude advisory ) on this : ” Too much water is harmful and can dilute your body’s sodium levels (hyponatremia) causing weakness, confusion, seizures, and coma.”
Last note on oxygen : small tanks of even medical grade oxygen provides a false sense of security : they will at extreme best last for an hour or two. For the value of cheap , portable oxygen solutions see here, # 5 and #7 check here

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.

References

Conclusion

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.

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146 Comments

  1. avijits saha on

    Hi, Dheeraj

    We are planning next year june 3rd week to visit kaza via shimla-sangla-kalpa-tabo and return via manali- kullu from Kolkata . We are 6 person (3 family and a 3 year old child). I want some suggestion from your end regarding this matter that

    1. Is it safe to travel with 3 year old child in this region.
    2.What type of clothes and accessories should we pack.
    3.Normal drinking water is safe or we have to carry mineral water in this total tour.
    4.What type dry foods should we carry with us .
    5.How much cost per person in this tour.(lower-mid budget tour).
    6. This time is ok for this journey.
    Please suggest.

    Avijit.
    06.07.2017.

    • Avijit, I think I replied to your questions either in some other comment or in the community forum or in Q&A section of the website. Didn’t you get it earlier?

  2. Hi Dheeraj,

    Where to catch Neelgrath / baltal buses in srinagar. I m visiting Amarnath yatra by helicopter at 6 am from Neelgrath. My worry is if I stay in baltal ( I heard Neelgrath is 12kms before baltal on srinagar – baltal route or are there any accomodations in Neelgrath ? ), how to catch the bus from baltal to Neelgrath helipad at very early morning as reporting time will be one hour earlier (in my case it’s mentioned 4.45 am ) to departure time. I am sure no buses run at that time. How other yatries do overcome this issue who travel in public transport like me ? Any suggestions / guidance from other fellow travellers as well are also most welcome and commendable !

  3. Hi Deepak,
    I am planning to travel Lahol spitti on in the 2nd week of June along with my 3 year son . Pls tell me the best and safe route and also tell me the itinerary as soon as possible

    • You can check a very balanced and most common itinerary for Spiti Valley followed by many travellers including me at the link here for 10-11 days: Most Common Itinerary for Spiti Valley.

      You can get connected directly to some drivers in Himachal or Spiti Valley or Kinnaur Valley at the link: List of Taxi Drivers for Spiti Valley & Kinnaur Valley. These drivers can come and pick you up from Manali / Shimla / Delhi / Chandigarh too, of course with a price of the pickup as well.

      The rates of the taxis are about Rs 3200-3500 per day depending on the number of days you plan to travel, more the days, less the price. If you are 2-3 in the group, you can opt for sedan taxi cars as well which charges around Rs 2200 per day.

      Otherwise, taxis, in general, are also available on the spot from Shimla or Manali from respective taxi stands. These drivers can help you with finding local stay options too.

      For stay options in Kinnaur and Spiti, check the link: Some Good Options of Stays in Spiti Valley / Kinnaur Valley.

      You can keep an average of 900-1200 per person per day for food and stay on the tour to Spiti Valley.

      It depends on person to person to take the children of such age group because AMS do not matter with respect to age or sex or any fitness level. It can happen to anyone of any age or sex or fitness I shall say… The issue with children is that they tend to exert the body considering it the same kind of place they belong to and this elevates the chances of getting struck with AMS. Secondly, they are not much expressive about their uneasy feelings, so it is parents who need to watch out and take care that the child is not suffering from uneasy feelings, headache or nausea and is behaving properly. With less than 4 year child, I think he/she will also be NOT able to convey the uneasiness she may feel. You have to be vigilant and if you notice any such feeling or he/she tells you about such a feeling then please do not ascend anywhere, either descend to lower altitude or stay at the same place to watch things overnight and if symptom increase then start descending immediately. Same is applicable for any adult as well. And yes, do keep the body adequately hydrated!!

  4. Hi, we are travelling with kids aged 9 and 6. We intend to go to spiti via kinnaur. We leave chandigarh and reach kaza the third day. Our 6 yr child is on antiseizure medicine. And seizure are well in control for last two years. So do think we should take up this tour or just go to kinnaur and head back. We plan to return from kaza. We dont intend to do chandrataal also.

  5. Dr Shailesh jayade on

    Hi Dheeraj we r traveling with our 2 yrs old daughter to leh n laddhak from 9th to 14th may 2017..
    We will be traveling from delhi to leh by air..i need to know, will it be ok for her to acclimatize coz we will be reaching leh in an hour from delhi..
    Kindly reply soon

    • It depends on person to person to take the children of such age group because AMS do not matter with respect to age or sex or any fitness level. It can happen to anyone of any age or sex or fitness I shall say… The issue with children is that they tend to exert the body considering it the same kind of place they belong to and this elevates the chances of getting struck with AMS. Secondly, they are not much expressive about their uneasy feelings, so it is parents who need to watch out and take care that the child is not suffering from uneasy feelings, headache or nausea and is behaving properly. With less than 4 year child, I think he/she will also be NOT able to convey the uneasiness she may feel. You have to be vigilant and if you notice any such feeling or he/she tells you about such a feeling then please do not ascend anywhere, either descend to lower altitude or stay at the same place to watch things overnight and if symptom increase then starts descending immediately. Same is applicable for any adult as well. And yes, do keep the body adequately hydrated!!

      I never took my child to Ladakh when he was less than 5 yrs old.

  6. Sreoshi Roy on

    Hello Dheeraj – this is all very useful information! We are planning a trip to Sangla and Spiti in Mid October with our 3 year old toddler. The plan is to spend a night at Shimla, 2nd night at Kalpa, 3rd night at Tabo and then 3th night at Kaza. We will spend 3 nights in Kaza and visit Sangla on our way back. Do you see this to a problem for the kid? Is it safe to take him to Kibber (14K feet) and other high altitude places in Kaza?

    Thanks in advance!
    Sreoshi

    • Hi Sreoshi,
      The plan looks OK to me as far as acclimatization is concerned. You will have to go slow and exert less, it should be OK.

      It depends on person to person to take the children of such age group because AMS do not matter with respect to age or sex or any fitness level. It can happen to anyone of any age or sex or fitness I shall say :D… The issue with children is that they tend to exert the body considering it the same kind of place they belong to and this elevates the chances of getting struck with AMS. Secondly, they are not much expressive about their uneasy feelings, so it is parents who need to watch out and take care that the child is not suffering from uneasy feelings, headache or nausea and is behaving properly. With less than 4 year child, I think he/she will also be NOT able to convey the uneasiness she may feel. You have to be vigilant and if you notice any such feeling or he/she tells you about such a feeling then please do not ascend anywhere, either descend to lower altitude or stay at the same place to watch things overnight and if symptom increase then start descending immediately. Same is applicable for any adult as well. And yes, do keep the body adequately hydrated!!

      • Sreoshi Roy on

        Thanks Dheeraj! One last question. We have been to Ladakh twice and I dont think I would take my 3 year old to Ladakh. When you compare altitude of course Kaza is at a higher altitude than Leh, but is it true that for whatever reasons you are more likely to end up with AMS in Ladakh than Kaza (and do note we dont plan to do Chandratal).

        • Well, yes, if you travel from Manali side to Kaza, you are more likely to face same symptoms as in Ladakh. Again, if you increase the altitude very quickly and do not give enough rest even after traveling from Kinnaur side, you will end up in same symptoms. The fact that you go slow over NH22 with night stay first at Kalpa/Sangla and then Tabo, helps you a bit. It does not mean that it is 100% proof, you can still get it. Another advantage in Kaza is you can quickly descend to Tabo or further to Chango, which helps a lot.

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