How to Prevent Altitude Sickness Naturally While Visiting Tibet

Last updated: August,17 2018

Tibet, fittingly known as the ‘Roof of the World’, is located at an average elevation of 4, 900m. It is the highest region in the world and Qinghai- Tibet Plateau is the highest plateau in the world. Some of the world’s highest peaks are located in Tibet. The highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest at an altitude of 8, 848m is located in the border of Tibet and Nepal. Thousands of people get to Tibet, in spite of its remotes, high altitude and basic facilities to get a taste of spirituality, to get a view of the mighty mountains, to see how it feels to stand on top of the world, to experience new culture, to learn a new religion, to drive in the highest highways, and to just stare into turquoise lakes etc. While people who want to travel to Tibet don’t mind the cold weather and high altitude, it is important to make sure that your body is ready for the sudden shift in altitude.

What is Altitude Sickness?

Altitude sickness is a natural reaction of your body while acclimatising to the new higher altitude. One of the main causes for AMS is the decreased oxygen at higher altitudes. Also known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) people experience this in places higher than 3,000m. Most of the places in Tibet are higher than this level. Some of the common symptoms of AMS are nausea, headaches, dizziness, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, loss of sleep, and fatigue. Here are some tips to help with, prevent or reduce the chances of altitude sickness while visiting Tibet.

6 Natural Ways to Prevent Altitude Sickness

Ascend Gradually

Ascending slowly is one of the best ways to naturally reduce the chances of experiencing symptoms of altitude sickness. People who fly to Lhasa are most likely to get altitude sickness that is because of the sudden change in altitude. You are literally just flying from plain and landing in one of the highest regions in the world. While flying our body does not have enough time to acclimatise to the high altitude. It is recommended that you take a Tibet train to Lhasa to start your journey in this high land. While travelling by train, you move much slowly and ascend gradually across the different altitudes. Even if you feel symptoms of altitude sickness like shortness of breath, there are oxygen outlets in train that you can help yourself with. The only disadvantage of going by train is that it is time consuming.

  Tibet train  Taking a Tibet train to Lhasa helps to avoid altitude sickness.

Climb High and Sleep Low

When you enjoy a trekking or climbing tour in Tibet, please ensure that you climb high and sleep low. Don’t be in a rush to gain dramatic increase in the elevation you are covering in a day. Always sleep in lower altitudes and sleep in the same altitude for at least two days for your body to acclimatise. Never ascend when you are experiencing symptoms of altitude sickness. It will only get worse, so climb down immediately.

Hydration is the Key

Be careful what you eat and drink during your Tibet tour. It is advisable to avoid drinking alcohol, intake of caffeine and smoke cigarettes at high altitudes. It is also advisable to not take any sleep medications and depressants as they limit the intake of oxygen. Drink more water, at least 2- 3 litres per day, as dehydration only makes it worse. The air is dry and dehydration only increases the chances of experiencing any of the symptoms of altitude sickness. As the weather is cold you might not really be thirsty but remind yourself to consume water at regular intervals. Hydration is the key to avoiding a host of symptoms like headache, nausea, fatigue, and dizziness. Butter Tea is a good remedy for altitude sickness; drink some butter tea as soon as you land in Lhasa.

Watch What You Eat

Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and foods rich in carbohydrates. Eat energy bars and healthy snack bars. Have soup and energy drinks every day. Eat small but frequent meals. Avoid eating in food from street vendors as it might not suit your stomach. Add food like bread and grains in your daily intake. The high altitude does not overwork your lungs and affects the oxygen content in your blood; they also affect the fluid, salt, and electrolyte levels in your body. So to keep yourself healthy and enjoy the trip freely ensure that you follow the above mentioned diet.

  Mount Kailash Kora  Eat healthy food and snacks while travelling around Tibet

Don’t Overexert

Do not take part in physically demanding activities as soon as you arrive. Take time to acclimatise—at least 2 or 3 days in Lhasa city. Take part only in light activities for the first two days. The long drives, high treks, long cycle rides all should be done only after your body is well adjusted to the new high altitude. Since you are in a very high altitude, your body is already overworking and consuming a lot of your energy. Over working yourself with activities like trekking, running, or cycling will only tire you out and you may even experience frequent shortness of breath. Another nugget to remember is that to be careful not to catch a cold while travelling to Tibet. It only exaggerates the symptoms you experience with altitude sickness. It is also advisable to not bathe every day.

Don’t Be Too Nervous about It

While the thought of experiencing symptoms of altitude sickness be scary and uncomfortable, don’t sweat too much over it. In most cases, the symptoms you experience will subside over in a couple of days. Even if it gets serious there are plenty hospitals in Tibet, that can treat you properly and swiftly for it. Altitude sickness also has nothing to do with age, gender, or physical fitness. While it is advisable to get yourself in shape before travelling to Tibet, your fitness factor has nothing to do with altitude sickness. Anybody can experience altitude sickness irrespective of age, gender, and fitness level. Inform your guide if you are not feeling well, get some local herbs that help with the symptoms, carry portable small oxygen tanks with at all times, and be prepared. At the most altitude sickness can only be a minor setback in your trip. It will not ruin your trip.

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