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Avoid High Altitude Sickness in Tibet

Author: Catherine Go

Last Updated:Jun 03, 2014 See More at

As Tibet is a remote area at a high altitude, altitude sickness (or acute mountain sickness, AMS) easily occurs. A thorough physical examination is advisable before travelling to Tibet. People with serious heart diseases should not visit Tibet. Those with less serious heart problems need to consult a doctor before starting your trip. People with high or low blood pressure need to consult a doctor before traveling. Try to keep healthy and not to catch a cold before entering Tibet. The first day arriving in Tibet, visitors are advised not to take a bath, smoke and drink alcohol. 

Altitude sickness is considered as the biggest health risk for travelling to Tibet. An altitude over 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) is usually defined as high altitude. Tibet is a land with average elevation above 4,000m. Most part area where people can travel and trek is more than 3,000m, so you need to know how to avoid altitude sickness.

Acute mountain sickness is common at high altitudes due to the decreasing availability of oxygen. Most people will appear different degrees of symptoms at high elevation, like headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of appetite and disturbed sleep. The occurrence of altitude sickness depends on the altitude. The higher altitude, the serious symptoms appear. If a tourist suffers from altitude sickness, the best remedy is to take him to a lower altitude. It is extremely dangerous to let him traveling to a higher place that may cause more serious symptoms even death within few minutes.

Though altitude sickness can be very serious, there is only a small part of tourists really suffering from that. Symptoms of altitude sickness include headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of appetite and disturbed sleep. Most people will experience one or more altitude sickness symptoms upon their arrival in Tibet. And they can soon acclimatize on the first one or two days in Lhasa. The symptoms will usually gradually decrease or disappeared.

Here are some good methods to help you avoid altitude sickness in Tibet.

1. Before visiting Tibet, 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.

2. If you go to Tibet for trekking, please make physical exercise plan one month before you fly to the high altitude, swimming, long distance walking, tennis or something.

3. Please take care of yourself and avoid catching cold before you go to Tibet, you will easily suffer from altitude sickness under weak physical condition.

4. Please do not drink any alcohol on the first two days you are in Tibet. You need to bring enough water or drinks and fruits, snacks with high caloric content, like chocolate.

5. It is better not to take shower at the first two days you are in Lhasa, because you are facing the danger of catching a cold.

6. Don’t be so exciting upon your arrival in Tibet, and do not run, jump or do some taxing job at the first two days. Being peaceful and having a good rest are important.

7. Once you have the symptoms of altitude sickness, please report to your tour guide immediately, and don’t go higher with symptoms of altitude sickness.

8. Medication and oxygen also help to prevent altitude sickness. Mild altitude sickness symptoms can be treated with proper medication. If medication and oxygen do not relieve the symptoms, go to hospital or evacuate immediately to a safe altitude!

9. Oxygen can help you relieve the symptoms of altitude sickness, but please do not use it often in Lhasa while your symptoms of altitude sickness are not serious. Most of our clients has more than 4 days itinerary covering Namtso(4800m), Everest Base Camp(5200m) etc, the oxygen treatment does not work at a higher altitude if they take too much at a lower altitude.

If you feel chilly or feel very uncomfortable, you need to tell your guide about this. You guide could send you to the best hospital available in the area.

Except altitude sickness, there are another health risks in Tibet. Insects might be one of them, particularly in the wild. Protect yourself from insect bites by using insect repellant or spray. Some tourists may be confronted with life-threatening allergic reactions after being bit by insects. In this case, go back to a city nearby to visit a doctor as soon as possible. Do not eat food bought from the street venders. Otherwise, gastrointestinal disorders might visit you and spoil your trip.

If you want to enjoy a trek in Tibet, especially a long trek, it is necessary to work toward excercising a few times a week for about 30 minutes each time. Walking, running, cycling and Hillwalking with a pack weighing 5-10 Kilos or10-20 pounds are good preparation for trekking. Swimming is also a fun and excellent form of training because it does not put stress upon your joints. In order to arrive for your expedition in top shape, please take plenty of rest and do not over-do it. Adequate rest and a well balanced diet are essential to avoid injury and illness before trekking.
More tips:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. In addition to the normal medications for traveling it is advisable to bring high altitude medication. Seek suggestions from your doctor.
4. Tell your guide quickly if you don't feel well and follow the guide's advice.

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