Because of Tibet's
high altitude, travelers with a
pre-existing problem of heart, lungs
or anaemia should consult a doctor
before considering a visit. Most
other travelers, once they are
acclimatized , rarely suffer more
than mild discomfort form the
Acclimatization is the adjustment of
the human body to the diminished
supply to oxygen at high altitudes.
Bone marrow produces quantities of
extra red blood cells to take oxygen
from the air in amounts needed for
good health, a process that may take
insufficient flow of oxygen to the
brain and other vital organs. It can
affect anybody above 3,000 meters(
Each person has a different
tolerance for altitude that has
nothing to do with age, sex or
fitness. One person will get a
headache at 3,400 meters ( 11,000
feet), another not until 5,500 (
18,000 feet). The symptoms of
mountain sickness include headache,
nausea and shortness of Breath,
singly or together. About half the
people arriving in Lhasa suffer at
least one symptom in the first two
days before recovering.
Usually rest and two aspirins will
relieve the discomfort. However, the
serious- sometimes fatal- conditions
of pulmonary and cerebral oedema
also begin with these same symptoms.
If a headache does not respond to
aspirin or a good night's rest, if a
dry cough with frothy sputum
develops, or if there are any signs
of sever lethargy or poor
coordination, go the hospital at
once. Better yet, take the next
plane to Chengdu. A lower altitude
is the surest cure.
Over-exertion contributes to
mountain sickness, and dehydration
may be a predisposing factor. Some
- Stick to a schedule of very mild activity and test for the first
- Drink plenty of fluids. Four litres ( seven pints) every day are
recommended to maintain a clear,
- Don't smoke, or at least keep it to a minimum.
- Avoid sedatives such as sleeping medicine or tranquilizers. They
tend to depress respiration and
limit oxygen intake.
- Diamox ( acetazolamide), a mild prescription diuretic that
stimulates oxygen intake, is used by
doctors of the Himalayan Rescue
Association in Kathmandu for
climbers making sudden ascents. One
250 milligram tablet taken on the
plane from Chengdu and another at
bedtime the first night in Lhasa may
help to forestall discomfort for
people known to be susceptible to
mountain sickness. Consult a doctor.
Diamox can cause unpleasant
side-effects in some people.
It is not unusual to wake up at
night at high altitudes gasping for
breath. This complaint, known as'
periodic breathing' and caused by a
change in the brain's control of
breathing while you sleep, is
normally quite harmless. Normal
breathing can be quickly restored by
relaxation, rhythmic deep breathing,
and understanding that there is
nothing to worry about.