Shenaz Treasurywala on learning about ‘acclimatisation and altitude sickness the hard way’: ‘My oxygen levels are too low’

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Shenaz Treasurywala loves to travel across the globe and explore new destinations. The former VJ also ensures to document her journeys — the highs and the lows — for her followers on Instagram. Sharing one such unpleasant experience, the 40-year-old, who is currently in Leh, opened up about suffering from altitude sickness and learning about acclimatisation at 3,500 metres above sea level.

Take a look.

The video is montage of Shenaz’s clips of travelling to Leh, which also shows how she has been recovering from altitude sickness with hot soups for comfort.

“Oops I thought I was stronger than this. I didn’t take the tablet because I have pill phobia. Learnt my lesson!” she said.

“My heart is pumping too fast. It’s confused as usual. My oxygen levels are too low,” she continued, adding that she also has chest pain and breathlessness.

“I’m learning about acclimatisation and altitude sickness the hard way! No, I didn’t take the tablet before getting here, because I hate popping medicines. Give me some natural tips to stay strong this trip. Because it’s just started!” said Shenaz, who will soon embark upon her journey to Ladakh’s Hanle.

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All you must know about travelling in higher altitudes

As the oxygen is low in high altitudes, people tend to find it difficult to breathe, and this is a common occurrence. The body is not used to the sudden change in air pressure and oxygen levels, which affects a person’s overall health, said Dr Pradip Shah, general physician, Fortis Hospital, Mulund.

Causes

There are no specific factors such as age, sex or physical condition that correlate with the susceptibility to altitude sickness. Some people may get it. Some people don’t and some people are more susceptible than others, experts say.

“Most people can go up to 8,000 feet with minimal effect, but as you go higher up, the body starts getting affected. The concentration of oxygen is around 21 per cent at sea level. And the barometric pressure is approximately 760 millimeters of mercury. As you go higher up, the concentration remains the same, but the number of oxygen molecules available for breathing starts reducing. So, the higher you go, the less oxygen is available. So, in order to let oxygen in the body, the breathing rate has to increase, and the extra ventilation increases the oxygen content in the blood, but there is not much at the sea level. So therefore, the body has to adjust in order to get at higher altitudes and lower pressure to get adequate oxygen,” explained Dr Sulaiman Ladhani, consulting chest physician, MD Chest and Tuberculosis, Masina Hospital, Mumbai.

In the patient of congestive heart failure, severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and pulmonary hypertension are contraindications to altitude exposure, said Dr Rakesh Rajpurohit, MD consultant pulmonologist and critical care medicine specialist from Jain Multispecialty Hospital, Mira Road, Mumbai.

Symptoms 

While mild symptoms include breathlessness, nosebleeds, and headache, one can even show signs like severe headaches, coughing, nausea, disorientation, and loss of coordination if health deteriorates.

Prevention

One must prepare their body for such a situation before visiting the place by training and doing breathing exercises which help improve cardiovascular ability.

“Also, once the person reaches the location, they should drink ample water as respiration is more due to less oxygen. This is because water from the body decreases while breathing, which is essential to prevent dehydration. Do minimum activities at the beginning of the trip, like trek, so that the body can get acclimatised to the altitude. Also, descending tends to put extra strain on the body, so coping with the condition effectively and avoiding any profound health implications is critical,” explained Dr Shah.

According to Dr Ladhani, one should aim to have a light diet, and take precautionary medications before ascending. “There are certain medications which can help, like acetazolamide also known as Diamox, which allows you to breathe faster so that you can metabolise more oxygen, thereby minimising the symptoms caused by poor oxygenation. But this has to be taken 24 hours prior to going up and as per need may have to be continued, but it is highly recommended that this has to be done under medical supervision or in consultation with your doctor,” he said.

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Kashmir Scroll is an online news project started by the young journalists of Kashmir.

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