About High Altitude Illness

About High Altitude Illness

Adverse reactions to the high altitudes of Tibet are one of the biggest challenges in traveling there. However, if you are properly informed and prepared, high altitude should not be an obstacle to safe and comfortable travel.

  • What is the definition of High Altitude?

- High Altitude: 1500 - 3500 m (5000 - 11500 ft)
- Very High Altitude: 3500 - 5500 m (11500 - 18000 ft)
- Extreme Altitude: above 5500 m

When acclimatization lags significantly behind ascent, various symptoms occur. Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) represents the body's intolerance of the hypoxic (low oxygen) environment at high elevations.

  • What are the symptoms of AMS?

- Hyperventilation (fast breathing)
- Shortness of breath during exertion
- Increased urination
- Altered breathing patterns at night
- Frequent nighttime awakening
- Strange dreams

  • Altitudes of different regions of Tibet
Place
Altitude
Place
Altitude
Lhasa
3658 m
12001 ft
Nyingchi
3000 m
9843 ft
Nagqu
4507 m
14787 ft
Tsedang
3500 m
11483 ft
Qamdo
3205 m
10515 ft
Xigatse
3836 m
12585 ft
Damshung
4200 m
13780 ft
Gyangtse
4040 m
13255 ft
Pome
2750 m
9022 ft
Tingri
4300 m
14108 ft
Amdo
4800 m
15748 ft
Zayui
2325 m
7628 ft
  • Tips to avoid AMS

- Do exercise to improve your fitness before coming to Tibet.
- Try to avoid catching a cold (frequent hand-washing, etc.).
- Make sure to get a good night's sleep the night before flying to Lhasa.
- Avoid strenuous activity during your first day in Tibet.
- When arriving in the airport in Lhasa, walk slowly, take deep breaths. Take time to acclimatize.
- Ascend to higher altitudes gradually. DO NOT ASCEND ANY HIGHER if you begin feeling ill.
- Prepare AMS medication, in accordance with a doctor's advice.

  • Further Readings

- Outdoor Action Guide to High Altitude: Acclimatization and Illnesses
- All About Altitude Illness
- The High Altitude Medicine Guide