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High Altitude Sickness in Tibet

29 August 2020 last updated at 19:54 0 Comments

A few days before you arrive at Lhasa, our travel consultant will send you notes about your Tibet tour. Among them, the most important thing is asking tourist to move “Slowly, Slowly and Slowly” when arriving at Tibet the first few days, in order to avoid the high altitude sickness in Tibet.

Although there is no 100% foolproof way to avoid getting high altitude sickness because each individual has a unique response to high altitude based on your genetics, we are trying best to reduce the risk of severe high altitude sickness.  

1. What is High Altitude Sickness?

High Altitude Sickness, also known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), often occurs in the places at high elevation, and is a natural reaction by the body as it attempts to acclimate itself to the high altitudes, pressure differences, lack of oxygen, dry atmosphere and other changes. The occurrence of high altitude sickness is also dependent on the altitude, the ascent rate and individual physical condition.

Because Tibet is located at the Qingzang Plateau at an average altitude of more than 4000 meters  and lack of oxygen, high altitude sickness is the biggest health risk to tourists travelling to Tibet. Most tourists will experience differing degrees of symptoms in Tibet. When arriving at Lhasa on the first day, Some tourists just have very mild symptoms so that they can not feel and say that they do not get high altitude reaction.

1.1 Common Symptoms of High Altitude Sickness

A. Headache or dizziness
B. Disturbed sleep
C. Loss of appetite or vomiting
D. Fatigue
E. Difficult breathing or shortness of breath
F. Feeling nausea
G. Restlessness
H. Chest distress
I. Somnolence
J. Abdominal distension
K. Numbness in limbs

Most travelers will experience one or more AMS symptoms upon their arrival in Tibet. The symptoms will decrease gradually during acclimatization.

If not being treated well, the mild high altitude sickness may cause severe altitude sickness, even threaten your life.

1.2 Severe High Altitude Sickness

A.High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) : weakness, shortness of breath, even at rest, impending suffocation at night, and a persistent productive cough with white, watery, or frothy fluid.

B.High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE): headache, ataxia, weakness, hallucinations, psychotic behavior, coma and loss of memory.

Both can be fatal at daytime or at night! Immediate descent to low altitude is the surest treatment.

At Yamdrok Lake with Yak

2. How to Avoid High Altitude Sickness?

2.1 Before Tibet Trip:

A. Before traveling to Tibet, tourist should get as fit and healthy as possible, both physically and psychologically.
B. Take a physical examination and consult your doctor for advice on preparing AMS medication.
C. Take care of yourself and avoid catching cold, as it is difficult to recover from a cold at high altitude.
D. Have a great night's sleep at the night before taking your flight/train to Tibet.

2.2 During Tibet Trip:

A. Move Slowly, Slowly and Slowly.
B. Take deep breaths. Leave plenty of time to acclimatize.
C. Drink much water. But drinking alcohol is not recommended.
D. Eat more light food with rich carbohydrate.
E. Do not take bath on the first day of arrival to avoid catching cold.
F. Do not take depressant drugs.
G. Less smoke cigarette or not.
H. Do not use oxygen bottle immediately if your symptoms are not worse. If your symptoms become worse and worse, pleas take oxygen and go to hospital.
I. When your Tibet tour ascends to higher altitude areas, you must ascend gradually. If you begin to feel High Altitude Sickness, stop ascend any higher, or return to low altitude place.

3. What to Do When Getting High Altitude Sickness?

First of all, please keep calm and determine which severity of your high altitude sickness. You can tell this to your member or tour guide, and ask them to help you.

If your symptoms are mild, please do not worry and continue to acclimate it gradually.

If it becomes worse, you need take the tablets or ask your partner or tour guide to accompany you to hospital or clinic and ask Tibet local doctor to help you.

If it is serious, you need end your Tibet trip and leave from Tibet to low altitude place.  

Gaoyuanan and Hongjingtian

4. What Medicine for High Altitude Sickness in Tibet?

When you are preparing the medicine for high altitude sickness, you need consult your doctor what medicine is suitable for you to use firstly.

The following medicines are what you may consider:
A. Acetazolamide (Diamox) for a short supply of oxygen
B. Dexamethasone for brain swelling. Take it for several days before doing any climbing.
C. Ibuprofen for minor headaches and bodily maladies
D. Nifedipine for high blood pressure and to aid breathing at a high altitude
E. Furosemide for an extreme case of pulmonary swelling
F. Rhodiola Rosea (Hong Jing Tian) or Gaoyuanan

5. Who are Advised not to Travel to Tibet?

We advise all tourists travelling to Tibet to have a full medical examination of your health and take your doctor’s advice.

If you have the following diseases, you are advised not to travel to Tibet:
A. Heavy cold
B. Severe anemia
C. High blood pressure
D. Heart disease
E. Diabetes
F. Breathing diseases, including pneumonia, tuberculosis, tracheitis, and bronchitis
And you are pregnant woman.

6. The Altitude Form of Major Destinations in Tibet

Places Avg. Altitude 
Lhasa 3650m
Gyantse 4050m
Shigatse 3800m
Tsedang 350m
Nyingchi 2900m
Bomi 2800m
Namtso 4700m
Damxum 4200m
Tingri 4300m
Everest Base Camp 5200m
Gyirong Town 2700m
Mount Kailash kora More than 5000m
Darchen 4500m
Shiquanhe 4300m


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