Tibet Travel Alerts

Most foreigners, as well as most Chinese, which arrive in Lhasa, suffer from high altitude sickness symptoms immediately! You might get disturbed with a slight to even strong headache, maybe lying on bed for one/two days! So be aware to consider AMS (Altitude Mountain Sickness) seriously.

However, usually you suffer a slight headache and some sleeplessness the first night, as you do usually not trek or exercise strengthenous sports. It’s advisable to use the first night a mild medicine for headache and avoid drinking of any alcoholic drinks. By drinking excess water you help enormously your body to acclimatize, resulting in a relaxed travel. Do not be surprised if the first nights headache occurs.

The following precautions may help to keep AMS away from you:

-Since fluid loss usually accompanies the acclimatization process, drink plenty of fluids
(3 – 4 liters daily at least) and eat carbohydrate food to maintain properly hydrated

-Do not over exert and maintain light activity right after your arrival

-Stay away from smoking and alcohol and other depressants such as tranquilizers and -sleeping pills, which will depress the respiratory drive and oxygen intake.

-Never go higher with symptoms of AMS

-It is significant that you report any symptoms of AMS immediately to other group members in the trip.

Altitude Mountain Sickness (Plateau ailments)

This text does not mean to scare you away, but rather to warn you of dangers that you can face with little problems if you take some simple precautions.

Before visit to Tibet

Before visit to Tibet, get as fit and healthy as possible, both physically and psychologically. Visitors having record of heart, lungs and other organ problems or anemia should consult their doctor before making the decision to visit Tibet.
AMS can be lessened or avoided. Proper acclimatization can also ease and reduce AMS symptoms. A gradual ascent will allow your body to acclimatize to higher altitudes and the decreased oxygen supply. Go higher 300 – 400 hundred meters (984 – 1,312 feet) daily and have a rest after every 1,000 meter (3280 feet) ascent. Medication also helps to prevent AMS. Mild AMS symptoms can be cured with proper medication. Once medications do not respond to the symptoms, go to hospital or evacuate immediately to safe altitude!

Altitude Sickness


Generally altitude over 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) is defined as high altitude. Since most places in Tibet are higher than that level, Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), also called Altitude Sickness is the biggest health threat to tourists in Tibet. AMS is common at high altitudes due to the decreasing availability of oxygen. It is usual that most people will experience symptoms at different levels at that high elevation. The occurrence of AMS is dependent on the altitude, the ascent rate and individual physical condition. Symptoms of AMS include headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of appetite and disturbed sleep. Many people will experience one or more AMS symptoms upon their arrival in Tibet. The symptoms will usually decrease in severity gradually during the acclimatization. Mild AMS is usual and will not interfere with mild activity.

However AMS can be very serious. The most serious symptoms are High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE), which can be fatal. Symptoms of HAPE include weakness, shortness of breath, even at rest, impending suffocation at night, and a persistent productive cough with white, watery, or frothy fluid. Symptoms of HPCE may include headache, ataxia, weakness, hallucinations, psychotic behavior, coma and loss of memory. Both approach and strike at night and can be fatal! Immediate descent is the surest treatment.

Lack of oxygen at high altitudes (over 2500 m) affects most people to some extent. The effect may be mild or severe and occurs because less oxygen reaches the muscles and the brain at high altitude, requiring the heart and lungs to compensate by working harder. Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is common at high altitudes, and depends on the elevation, the rats of ascent and individual susceptibility. The major risk factor in AMS is the speed with which you make your ascent. Any traveller who flies into Lhasa, which is at just over 3600m, is likely to experience some symptoms of AMS. You should take care to acclimatize slowly and take things easy for the first couple of days. AMS has been fatal at 3000 m, although 3500 m to 4500 m is the usual range.

Symptoms

Mild symptoms of AMS are very common in travelers to high altitudes, and usually develop during the first 24 hours at altitude. Most visitors to Tibet will suffer from at least some symptoms that will generally disappear through acclimatization in several hours to several days.

Symptoms tend to be worse at night and include headache, dizziness, and lethargy, loss of appetite, nausea, breathlessness and irritability. Difficulty sleeping is another common symptom, and many travelers have trouble sleeping for the first few days after arriving in Lhasa. AMS may become more serious without warning and can be fatal. Symptoms are caused by the accumulation of fluid in the lungs and brain, and include breathlessness at rest, a dry irrigative cough (which may progress to the production of pink, frothy sputum), severe headache, lack of coordination (typically leading to a ‘drunken walk’), these signs should be taken very seriously.

Prevention

The best prevention of AMS is to avoid rapid ascents to high altitudes. If you fly or bus to Lhasa, take it easy for at least three days. Within a week you should be ready for something a bit more adventurous, but do not push your self to do anything that you are not comfortable with.

The following precautions may help to keep AMS away from you:

1. Ascend slowly.

2. Drink extra fluids.

3. Eat light, high-carbohydrate meals for more energy.

4. Avoid alcohol as it may increase the risk of dehydration and do not smoke.

5. Don’t push yourself when climbing up to passes, rather take plenty of breaks; you can usually get over the passes as easily tomorrow as you can today.

6. Since fluid loss usually accompanies the acclimatization process, drink plenty of fluids (3 – 4 liters daily at least) and eat carbohydrate food to maintain properly hydrated;

7. Do not over exert and maintain light activity right after your arrival;

8. Stay way from smoking and alcohol and other depressants such as tranquilizers and sleeping pills, which will depress the respiratory drive and oxygen intake.

9. Always keep in mind the following rules which may ensure you a smooth and enjoyable trip to Tibet:

10. Any sickness at high altitude is AMS until proven otherwise; Never go higher with symptoms of AMS;

11. It is significant that you report any symptoms of AMS immediately to other group members in the trip.

Treatment
The most effective treatment for severe AMS 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; however sufferers may need to be carried down. Whatever the case, do not delay, as any delay could be fatal.