W.When I look at the Covid numbers in our country, I can only imagine how many hikers could be affected by the virus.
Even within Indiahikes, around 35% of us were affected by Covid. Most of us had moderate to mild symptoms. Some lucky ones escaped with no symptoms. Most of us have now recovered.
Given that Covid is an infection that leaves a little bit of your mind behind, It is important for us to understand how we can prepare for a recovery from Covid.
To learn more about it, I interviewed our doctor, a doctor who has been a Covid front-line warrior since the first day of the pandemic. Her name is Dr. Sreelakshmi Thirumoorthy. We affectionately call her Dr. Sree.
Dr. Sree has witnessed the effects of Covid up close. She has also worked extensively with Indiahikes and has done a lot of great treks. Her academic interest is to gain knowledge of human physiology at great heights. She is our medical expert. So it was natural that I interviewed her on the subject.
I met her yesterday to ask how we can prepare for a hike once we’ve recovered from Covid.
Before I continue with the interview, I want to give away the spoiler! The good news is that no matter how bad your Covid case was, once you’ve recovered from it, You can hike at great heights.
However, she does advise following some protocols.
I’ll set up my conversation as questions and answers to make it easier for you.
In conversation with Dr. Sreelakshmi. Image from the Indiahikes archive
1. I have recovered from Covid-19. How long should I wait before going on a high altitude hike?
DR. Sreelakshmi: If you have a mild case of Covid without too many symptoms, you can give it about 4-6 weeks before you start a high altitude hike.
However, if you are having a severe bout of Covid I would recommend waiting at least 3 months before heading to the mountains. There’s a reason for that. Moderate to severe Covid can result in scars in the lungs and fibrosis as a result of the disease. You tend to feel body pain and tiredness long after the infection goes away.
It will take some time to restore. It will take 2-3 months to reach your pre-covid energy levels and get rid of postviral myalgia.
So my advice is to wait at least 3 months and then go for a high altitude hike. I would also recommend that you start with easier hikes to see how you are going before thinking of the more difficult hikes.
2. How should I start a fitness routine?
(Dr. Sreelakshmi is a certified Advanced Power Yoga Instructor, so her advice here applies.)
DR. Sreelakshmi: Exercise is beneficial once you recover from Covid. Here I would advise you to start slowly.
Start with a brisk 20 minute walk (you can do this in your house / or on your patio). Mix with jogging after approx. 10 days. Go for a 10-minute jog + 10-minute brisk walk.
After about 15 days, start doing functional exercises like squats and planks to build your strength. ((See some good functional exercises here.) Gradually increase your training to see how much your body allows you.
In addition, I advise you to include breathing exercises in your fitness routine. For a high altitude hike, your lung capacity is exactly what you need to build.
As simple as pranayama Anulom-Vilom, Kapalbhati and Nadi Shodhan will help. These are very basic forms of pranayama and anyone can do them. They are helping your lungs expand and that is what you need to be able to recover from Covid.
3. They were very careful to follow good nutrition. What diet would you recommend to trekkers while they are recovering?
DR. Sreelakshmi: Eating a healthy diet is essential on your path to recovery. You need high protein foods with a lower glycemic index (GI). This is also what will help you prepare for a hike.
Consume more fruits, vegetables, and vegetables. Choose millet instead of rice. Choose healthy grains and sprouts instead of processed foods.
Avoid junk foods and even high GI foods like bread and cookies.
While this is the usual advice you hear when it comes to eating healthy, it becomes even more important once you recover from Covid.
4. Is it possible that you are more prone to acute mountain sickness if you are affected by Covid?
DR. Sreelakshmi: This is difficult to say because COVID is a new infectious disease and there is still a lot of unknowns. I study it too. Our Indiahikes Health app data will be of great help in studying the effects of Covid at high altitude, not only for India but also for the world.
In theory, however, you could be more vulnerable due to lung scars and fibrosis. It is all the more important that you fully recover before going on a high-altitude hike.
Even so, I would advise trekkers to follow what we recommend to everyone. Acclimatize well and take precautionary measures. I would strongly recommend testing yourself first on hikes that do not exceed 12,500 feet.
If you climb over 14,000 feet (after testing yourself on lower grade treks), take a preventative course from Diamox. These are The basics that Indiahikes trekkers have always recommendedand everyone should follow them.
You must also bring a medical certificate with you on every Indiahikes hike. If you give this to your Trek Leader during your safety check-in, let them know that you have had Covid in the past. They will make sure to keep an eye on you.
5. Would you advise trekkers to choose specific treks?
DR. Sreelakshmi: Hmm, I would suggest you take a local walking tour and see how you are. I understand it is difficult during these lockdowns. But after the country opens up, you should definitely do that. If you feel breathless and tired after just 2-3 hours of climbing, you know where you stand and if you can try a Himalayan hike.
However, when you have fully recovered and you know you are returning to your pre-Covid energy levels, you can give it a try any himalayan hike, Difficulty no bar.
6. Should trekkers be vaccinated in order to hike?
DR. Sreelakshmi: If you haven’t had Covid or if it’s been 6 months since you’ve had Covid, it’s much safer to hike after vaccination. It helps protect yourself and others.
With the current vaccination campaigns in our country, I see that most of the people have received one dose of the vaccination. Again, this is better than nothing to keep you and others around you safe. If you have both doses, that’s for best.
After my conversation with Dr. Sree isn’t having a hard time going to the mountains after recovering from Covid.
Much of their advice we recommend our trekkers to follow on a specific day – Have a good fitness routine, maintain a good diet, know your hike well, and get well on your way.
If you have any doubts on this subject, please, Dr. Ask Sree for help answering your questions. Enter your questions in the comments below and we will write back to you.
Indiahikes Trekking from mid-June?
All of us at Indiahikes are preparing to return to the mountains as well. We hope that we can reopen the hikes from mid-June. Of course, a lot depends on government-imposed restrictions and the Covid numbers in India. We will reopen the treks when we feel it is safe for our trekkers and our mountain teams.
Until then, I hope that you are working towards getting fit and taking care of yourself.
We meet next week.