Avoid High Altitude Sickness in Tibet

Most people who plan to come to Tibet worry about the high altitude sickness (or acute mountain sickness, AMS). There is no need to be overly worried. Very few travelers are adversely affected by the altitude for very long, except those with serious heart diseases. However, a little precaution always does you good.

High Altitude Sickness
High Altitude Sickness (or acute mountain sickness, AMS) is common at high elevations; relevant factors are the rate of ascent and individual susceptibility. The former is the major risk factor. On average, one tourist a year dies in Tibet from High Altitude Sickness. Any traveler comes to Lhasa, where the elevation is around 3600m, is likely to experience some symptoms of High Altitude Sickness.

Traveler with serious heart diseases better not to travel Tibet;
Traveler with mild heart diseases should consult your doctor prior travel Tibet;
Traveler with high or low blood pressures should consult your doctor prior travel Tibet;

High Altitude Sickness is linked to low atmospheric pressure. There who travel up to Everest Base Camp in Tibet, for instance, reach an altitude where atmospheric pressure is about half of that at sea level.
With an increase in altitude, the human body needs time to develop physiological mechanisms to cope with the decreased oxygen. This process of acclimatization is still not fully understood, but is known to involve modifications in breathing patterns and heart rate induced by the autonomic nervous system, and an increase in the blood’s oxygen-carrying capabilities. These compensatory mechanisms usually take about one to three days to develop at a particular altitude. You are unlikely to get High Altitude Sickness once you are acclimatized to a given height, but you can still get ill when you travel higher. If the ascent is too high and too fast, the compensatory reactions may not kick into gear fast enough.

Mild symptoms of High Altitude Sickness usually develop during the first 24hrs. Most travelers to Tibet will suffer from some symptoms; these will generally disappear through acclimatization in several hours or days.
Symptoms tend to be worse at night and include headache, dizziness, lethargy, loss of appetite, nausea, breathlessness and irritability. Difficulty sleeping is another common symptom.
The symptoms of High Altitude Sickness, however mild, are a warming; be sure to take them seriously to stop it getting worse.

Prior Tibet Tour
*To get healthy as possible, both physically and psychologically. Visitors having heart disease, high blood pressure or other organ problems or anemia should consult their doctor before making the decision to visit Tibet.
*If you go to Tibet for trekking, please make physical exercise plan (such as swimming, long distance walking, tennis, etc.) one month before you fly to the high altitude.
*Please avoid catching cold before you go to Tibet, otherwise you will easily suffer from altitude sickness under weak physical condition.

During Tibet Tour
*Don’t be so excited upon your arrival in Tibet, and do not run, jump or do some physically-demanding activities during the first two days. Nothing is more important than having a good rest.
*Please do not drink any alcohol on the first two days after your arrival in Tibet. You need to prepare enough water or snacks with high caloric content, like chocolate.
*It is better not to take shower at the first two days you are in Lhasa, because you are likely to catch a cold.
*Drink plenty of water while traveling in Tibet. Eat light, high-carbohydrate meals for more energy and avoid alcohol so as to decrease the risk of dehydration.
*Do not eat food bought from the street venders. Otherwise, gastrointestinal disorders might visit you and spoil your trip.
*In addition to the normal medications for traveling it is advisable to bring high altitude medication. Seek suggestions from your doctor.
*Tell your guide quickly if you don’t feel well and follow the guide’s advice.
*Other than that, Sunscreen, sunglasses, lip creams are recommended to protect your eyes and skin because the solar radiation strikes the earth with unusual intensity due to the high altitude and the thin atmosphere in Tibet.
*Do not eat food bought from the street venders. Otherwise, gastrointestinal disorders might visit you and spoil your trip.

Treat mild symptoms by resting at the same altitude until recovery, usually a day or two. Take paracetamol or acetaminophen for headaches. If symptoms persist or become worse, however, immediate descent is necessary. Even 500m can help.
The most effective treatment for severe High Altitude Sickness is to get down to a lower altitude as quickly as possible. In less severe cases the victim will be able to stagger down with some support; in other cases they may need to be carried down.
The drug acetazolamide (Diamox) is recommended for the prevention of High Altitude Sickness – take 125mg twice a day as a preventive does. Be aware that even when you are on Diamox, you should not ignore any symptoms of High Altitude Sickness. Diamox should be avoided in those with sulphur allergy.
Oxygen can help you relieve the symptoms of altitude sickness, but please do not overuse it in Lhasa, the relatively lower altitude place, while your symptoms of High Altitude Sickness are not too serious. Otherwise it wont be as effectively at the real dangerous places, eg. Namtso(4800m), Everest Base Camp(5200m), etc.