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Traveling to Tibet: How to prevent altitude sickness?

What is Altitude Sickness?

Altitude sickness is also known as altitude syndrome, mountain reaction, and altitude sickness.(Altitude sickness is a more appropriate translation than mountain sickness. It is a reaction of the human body to high altitude areas, not a disease.)
English: Altitude sickness, acute mountain sickness (AMS).

It refers to the acute pathological changes that occur in the human body due to reduced oxygen concentration at high altitudes.
Altitude sickness is caused by the fact that the higher the altitude, the thinner the air and the lower the air pressure, so the oxygen pressure required by the human body also decreases.
The amount of oxygen required by the human body remains unchanged. In order to maintain the required oxygen content in the blood, the content of red blood cells must be increased.
However, it takes several days for the human body to automatically increase the number of red blood cells. Therefore, when you first enter the mountainous area, the altitude will suddenly increase and the human body will not have time to adapt.
When there is a lack of oxygen supply in the body, the higher the altitude and the shorter the transition time, the more intense the reaction will be.

This physiological reaction is generally called "mountain sickness" or altitude sickness.

Symptoms of altitude sickness

  • Mild symptoms: headache, dizziness, anorexia, insomnia, nausea, peripheral edema, general fatigue, etc.
  • Moderate symptoms: vomiting, headache that cannot be relieved by general analgesics, decreased urine output, etc.
  • Severe symptoms: Altered consciousness, unsteady gait, difficulty breathing at rest, gurgling sounds in the lungs, and cyanosis

Taking a plane? Taking a train? Can it prevent altitude sickness?

The best way to alleviate altitude sickness is of courseSlowly ascend from low altitude to high altitude, so that the body can gradually adapt.
Many people generally believe that taking a train to Lhasa is a process of slowly rising from a low altitude to a high altitude, but is this really the case? Please see the altitude changes in the figure below.

Altitude sickness

So taking the train to Lhasa does not alleviate altitude sickness.In addition, the carriage is a relatively closed environment with poor air quality, long ride time, and crowded and noisy environment, so people often cannot get a good rest. Instead, they are more likely to experience the uncomfortable feeling of altitude sickness.

Although flying to Lhasa means rising from a low altitude to a high altitude in a short period of time, you can go to the hotel immediately after arriving in Lhasa and get a comfortable rest environment, giving your body enough time and energy to slowly adjust and adapt. Even if you have severe altitude sickness, you can get treatment from professional doctors immediately.
Therefore, in our itinerary, the first day is definitely to pick up the guests at the airport and send them to the hotel to rest immediately. No other itinerary is arranged. We also recommend that tourists make sure to rest well in the hotel.

Do you want oxygen?

Many people are used to using oxygen to relieve discomfort. Oxygen inhalation can temporarily relieve symptoms such as chest tightness, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing, but after stopping oxygen inhalation, the symptoms will reappear, delaying the time for the body to adapt to the plateau.

If you only have mild symptoms of altitude sickness, it is recommended that you do not use oxygen.This will allow the body to adjust itself and make it easier to adapt to the plateau environment.

Mild symptoms of altitude sickness will heal on their own without treatment. Do not use oxygen frequently to avoid becoming dependent on it. If you experience severe symptoms of altitude sickness, please inform the tour guide immediately and take further treatment.

How to prevent altitude sickness?

Maintaining a healthy attitude is the most important key to preventing altitude sickness. Many symptoms of altitude sickness may be caused by psychological factors. Because of the fear of the plateau, the probability of obvious symptoms of altitude sickness is higher. According to experience, the adaptation process of children to altitude sickness is often shorter than that of some adults. It may be because children do not understand what altitude sickness is and are less psychologically burdened.

  • Two weeks before departure, be sure to maintain a normal schedule, do not stay up late, and keep your body in the best condition –> Very important
  • One week before departure, start taking Rhodiola rosea capsules, which are available at pharmacies. Choose capsules with higher unit content.
  • Whether you take a train or a plane, you must relax and slow down after arriving.
  • On the first day of arrival, when your body has not yet adapted to the plateau environment, try not to take a shower or wash your hair.
    Stay in Lhasa for 2-3 days to let your body adapt to the plateau environment before starting your journey
  • Drink plenty of water, in small amounts and multiple times. You can also follow local customs and drink butter tea like the locals.
  • Do not overeat, chew food slowly to reduce the burden on the stomach and intestines
    Keep warm. The temperature difference between day and night is large. Don't catch a cold.
  • Breathe slowly, speak slowly, walk slowly, and savor the beauty of Tibet slowly

How to treat altitude sickness?

  • Mild dizziness/headache: If it is within the tolerable range, divert your attention, look at the beautiful scenery, and the symptoms will disappear after your body functions adjust.
  • Severe headache or vomiting: inform the tour guide or Lhasa staff, seek medical assistance, oxygen, intravenous drip, and take appropriate medicines.
  • If the symptoms still persist after taking medicine, breathing oxygen, and receiving intravenous drips, you must immediately move to a lower altitude.

Who is not suitable to travel to Tibet?

  • Those who have not yet recovered from a severe cold
    People with serious diseases of the heart, lungs, brain, liver, kidneys, etc.
  • Those who have just undergone surgery and whose wounds and physical strength have not yet fully recovered
  • Pregnant women
  • Doctors advise against travel
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