What is High Altitude Sickness?
High altitude sickness, also known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), or altitude illness, is a pathological condition at high altitude which is caused by the combination of reduced air pressure and lack of oxygen.
An altitude above 8,000 ft is usually defined as high altitude, and most places in Tibet are higher than this level. Therefore, AMS is one of the biggest challenges when travelling in Tibet.
See altitudes of different places in Tibet
Definition of High Altitude
Most people will experience AMS during the acclimatization process. Adverse reactions may vary from person to person. In most cases, the symptoms are mild and will subside in several hours to several days as the body acclimatizes.
Mild Symptoms of AMS include:
- Shortness of breath with exertion
- Rapid pulse (heart rate)
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Poor sleeping
- Dizziness or light-headedness
In some, adverse reactions may process to severe altitude sickness, even life-threatening one, such as high altitude pulmonary edema and high altitude cerebral edema. Therefore, tell your tour guide if you are feeling bad and don’t hesitate to go to hospital is your symptoms become worse and worse!
How to Avoid High Altitude Sickness?
Before you go:
- Get as fit and healthy as possible, both physically and psychologically. Don’t be too nervous.
- A medical examination is necessary if you’ve never been to plateaus.
- Avoid catching cold or respiratory problems before entering Tibet.
- Prepare AMS medication with your doctor’s advice.
See what else you need to pack for Tibet travel
After your arrival:
- Avoid brisk walking or running immediate after your arrival, especially if you arrive by air.
- Avoid strenuous activity or move higher during your first 24 hours in Tibet. But light activity during the daytime is better than sleeping because respiration decreases during sleeping, exacerbating the symptoms.
- Don’t take shower at the first day! Avoid catching cold!
- Drink plenty of fluids (3 to 4 liters daily).
- Eat high-carbohydrate food.
- Avoid tobacco, alcohol or depressant drugs, including barbiturates, tranquilizers, or sleeping pills.
- Better not to take oxygen if your AMS symptoms are mild. It helps you acclimatize faster. If your symptoms become worse and worse, please take oxygen and go to hospital.
- Take it easy and move to higher altitude gradually. Breathe deeply and take more rest than usual. Stop move higher if you begin feeling ill. If symptoms increase, move to lower altitude!
Who Can’t Go to Tibet?
It’s advisable to have a body check-up or have your doctor’s advice before visiting Tibet. Visitors having record of heart, lung, liver, kidney problems must seek medical advice before making the decision to go to Tibet! Generally speaking, the following persons should not go to Tibet:
- Have already caught a cold
- Have severe anemia
- Have high blood pressure or severe heart disease
- Have pneumonia, tuberculosis, tracheitis, or bronchitis