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Dhankar afternoon

Spiti Valley | Breathing issues at high altitude – Useful tips for every1

Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh is home to some of the highest villages in the world. The terrain lacks any trees since it’s a part of the Trans-Himalayas. Lack of trees means the oxygen supply is low. But this does not mean there is no oxygen in the valley.  

Does everyone have breathing issues in Spiti Valley?

The answer is NO. Breathing issues in Spiti Valley have various factors which can be broken down into three main categories.

Oxygen meter in Spiti valley

1. Respiratory medical history

Travellers who already have a medical history of respiratory issues such as asthma or any kind of heart issues are the first ones to fall prey to breathing issues in Spiti Valley. If you already have a medical history then Spiti Valley is the road trip you should avoid, since it’s not the kind of place where you will find good medical assistance if something happens. The nearest medical centre is located in the town of Reckong Peo which is a minimum eight-12 hour drive away.  

2. Mental block 

Many who travel to Spiti Valley already have a mental block in their head that they will fall sick due to the high altitude. The reason being because they have read or have had family and friends who have travelled there and have fallen ill. Once it’s in your head that you are going to fall sick, then there is nothing in the world which can prevent you from reaching there. Getting a common cold or runny nose is very common, but if that triggers a wave of illness, then it’s purely due to a weak mind.  No one other than yourself can help you overcome your mental block.  

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3. Rush trip 

Running to Spiti Valley for the sake of getting it off your bucket list is a vital factor which will lead to you falling sick. Coming from the city altitude, hot weather and a hectic work life makes it a perfect recipe to fall ill in Spiti. The shorter your trip, the more hectic your daily routine, since the route will be the same and the distance to be covered will remain unaltered. You need a minimum of eight days starting from Delhi or Chandigarh to complete the road trip end to end without having to rush it. Since acclamation is the key to survival in this part of the Himalayas.  

Dhankar health check

Does age and weight cause breathing issues in Spiti Valley?

There are various factors which cause breathing issues in Spiti Valley. But age or weight has nothing at all to do with this. There have been even travellers as old as 65 years and over as well as those above a 100kg who have successfully completed the Spiti Valley tlow road trip without having any kind of health issues. It’s honestly mind over body, unless you have a medical history.  

What triggers breathing issues in Spiti Valley?

  1. Spiti Valley is an extremely high altitude and dusty road trip. Which makes dust allergies very common among travellers, it’s easily the primary reason most end up falling sick. 
  1. Having a daily bath will lead to an assured head cold which will then end up blocking your nose which will in turn trigger a breathing issue. Golden rule is don’t have a bath daily.  No matter how dirty you feel, this isn’t the place you need to care about the mud on your body.  
  1. Not wearing the correct clothing is another reason why people end up falling sick. How do clothes have anything to do with breathing? It all starts with a common cold and headache and then leads to breathing issues.  Always wear layers, so based on the weather you can pull off a few or add a few.  
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post card writting Spiti Valley

What to do if I can’t breathe in Spiti Valley? 

The towns of Kaza and Tabo both have medical centres which is where you need to rush yourself first. Get yourself checked and then do as the doctor who is incharge suggests. The worst case is you will need to head back in a 108 ambulance to Recong Peo. The best case is the doctor will give you the green signal to move ahead.

Which villages are where people have breathing issues? 

  1. Dhankar 
  2. Langza 
  3. Hikkim 
  4. Mud 
  5. Demul 
  6. Komik 
  7. Kibber 
  8. Chandartal Lake. (Not a village but 99% fall sick on a night stay in the campsite)

Are you confused if you should make the road trip to Spiti Valley ? 

To give you some data after 12+ years of road trips around Spiti Valley, the first being back in 2011 for us at tlow. We have just had one traveller who has fallen sick and had to return back and get admitted in Recong Peo and that was because the traveller was not ready to listen and wear warm clothing or even wear shoes.  The Goa chill vibe of drinking beer and wearing summer clothes is what cost him dearly.

Again, unless you already have a medical history, don’t miss out on a road trip to Spiti Valley with the fear of falling sick or dying due to lack of oxygen on the trip.  

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