Because Tibet has such a high average elevation (4500 metres), altitude sickness can be a very real problem. Because there is no precise medication for acute mountain sickness, the only options are to return to a lower altitude region – or to go back to Kathmandu.
It is very difficult to predict who is more likely to get altitude sickness, as there is no real correlation with overall health or level of fitness.
Sometimes the fittest people can fall victim to altitude sickness, while older people or those who seem less able remain fine.
The symptoms of altitude sickness are insomnia;vomiting;loss of appetite; persistent headache; dizziness and disorientation; weakness, fatigue and heavy legs; respiratory problems; reduced urine output.
The factors which contribute to altitude sickness include reduced levels of oxygen, low pressure, too rapid an ascent, dehydration and hypothermia.
You can help protect yourself from altitude sickness by allowing yourself time to acclimatize at each new elevation, not ascending too quickly, not drinking alcohol, smoking or taking sleeping pills, ensuring you drink plenty of fluids (4 litres per day is recommended), sleeping for at least seven hours and ensuring that the window is left open at night. You should also wear plenty of clothes, even if the temperature is warm.
If you have mild symptoms of altitude sickness, do not proceed any higher. Wait and acclimatize and see if the symptoms disappear – take an aspirin if possible.
If the symptoms become worse, you must descend immediately.
Some basic symptoms of Altitude Sickness:
– Insomnia and vomiting
– Loss of appetite
– Persistent headache
– Dizziness and disorientation
– Weakness, fatigue and heavy legs
– Problem during respiration
– Reduced urine output
Factors of Altitude Sickness:
– Less oxygen
– Low pressure
– Rapid ascent
– Possible dehydration
Prevention from Altitude Sickness:
– No rapid ascent
– No alcohol plus smoking and sleeping pills
– Enough and hygienic fluids everyday
– Diamox [125 mg] before dinner for sleeping problem if suffocated.
– Nafedipine – for HAPE
– Steroids/Dexmethasone for HACE
– Hyperbolic bag – Gammow bag
– Awareness of altitude sickness
– Do not proceed higher after having mild symptoms. Take aspirin tablets
– Go down as soon as possible just after having worsening symptoms
– Sleep more than seven hours a day and open the windows when you sleep at night.
– Wear more clothes even if it’s very hot.
Important things to perform:
– Have your ascent slowly and seriously
– Drink plenty of fluids (at least 4 liters per a day)
– Before resuming a trip, you better make yourself familiar with the altitude sickness.
Rescue & Evacuation:
Tibet has no helicopter rescue or other emergency evacuation service in case of illness, so it is extra important to monitor your health for signs of altitude or other sickness. If you fall ill, it is usually most sensible to go back to a lower altitude. Always consult with our guide, who will give you the best advice.