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Need advice for Altitude Issues in Tibet and Lhasa

Need advice for Altitude Issues in Tibet and Lhasa

Apr 6th, 2012, 03:17 PM
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Need advice for Altitude Issues in Tibet and Lhasa

We are leaving for China in mid-April and will fly to Tibet and Lhasa for 3 days. Has anyone been there? How did you deal with the high altitudes? Any suggestions about what we would need to keep the headaches at bay? We're in our 60's and in good shape, but have never been above 7K feet. Thanks!
mairseydotes is offline  
Apr 6th, 2012, 03:31 PM
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Talk with your doctor about diamox, a medication to prevent altitude sickness.

Frankly three days in Lhasa sounds like a bad idea. You'll never even get a chance to adjust to the altitude.
Kathie is offline  
Apr 6th, 2012, 05:20 PM
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My friend took diamox and had altitude sickness just the same as we did. Bad headache,nausea,and threw up in the bushes of the hotel because I couldn't make it to the restroom. Our guide made us go to bed when we arrived, I got up for lunch, went back to bed, got up for dinner and then back to bed. The following day the altitude sickness was gone. We did walk slowly, and our guide took his time. The Palace has 300 steps but you stop, breathe and the guide talks. You can do it. It's like you have lost 40 IQ points for a while. By the time we left, we were adjusted to it. When we got back to China, it was like you could leap tall building in a single bound. Yea,for oxygen. Tibet was a very interesting country. Carry Pursell with you at all times and toilet paper. Our group, General Tours,consisted of 16 people and we all agreed at the end of the trip that it was the worst and the best part of the trip. We did China first then on to Tibet. Try the yak tea, the yak burger and buy a yat shawl (I didn't and regret it still today)It is an adventure and I definate would go. The altitude sickness is yuck but as I said everyone was fine after the first restfull day. It is a bad headache, I can't lie but wouldn't have missed it for the world. Buy a prayer wheel too. Have mine displayed proudly in the bookshelf at home and it makes for great memories. Happy Travels.
southeastern is offline  
Apr 6th, 2012, 05:55 PM
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Like others have said, with 3 days you don't really get to accliminate to the altitude. But the best things you can do is to do as little 'work' as possible in the first 12-24 hours. You need to be very vigilant about this, as you may not feel any issue during the first few hours in Tibet. Walk very slow, let others do luggage for you. Don't even think about steps. Absolutely no alcohol. NO BATH OR SHOWER.

Now, I won't recommend this for those planning for longer stays, but if you only have 3 days, then might as well use oxygen if needed.
rkkwan is offline  
Apr 7th, 2012, 02:50 AM
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mdtravelhealth.com illness prevention altitude illness,
For short stay Diamox(acetacolamide) a must or dexamethasone
if allergic a must for flatlanders to prevent being sick the whole time. Should be taken 48 hours prior to ascent. I did this did fine. Travellers Diarrhea your other big risk get meds fron your MD forthis too. istm.org good travel clinics if needed.Do respect the altitude it sure can make you miserable and very rarely can even be fatal.

Happy Trails!
qwovadis is offline  
Apr 7th, 2012, 03:46 AM
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No bath or shower. Hmmm. I have read that advice in some articles about Tibet. But we went to Peru and I never saw that suggested in the 200 or so articles I read. Odd.
colduphere is offline  
Apr 7th, 2012, 06:04 AM
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Our guide also told us not to shower or bathe and to open a window. He also told us not to do an oxygen pillow because then you don't get used to the altitude. 3 days will give you a look into the country. The Palace is pretty in the pictures and nasty and smelly on the inside. If you like clean, this trip will be an experience for you.
southeastern is offline  
Apr 7th, 2012, 08:13 AM
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Bathing and showering put stress on one's circulatory system. As I said, do as little as possible in the first 24 hours. Really no reason to bathe or shower in that low humidity location for a day.

Tibet is not dirty or nasty. The interior of temples and palaces have a smell because the incense they use are made from yak butter.
rkkwan is offline  
Apr 7th, 2012, 09:46 AM
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Showering is a very extertional activity (brings on angina in those who are susceptible for example) and can cause some to faint especially if hot or warm water.

The altitude difference between Machu Picchu (just under 8000feet)
versus Lhasa (11000 feet) makes a big difference.

Ideally one should acclimatize gradually rather than flying into 11000 feet. It would be good if travel agents and vendors made a point of this but they often don't at the risk of spoiling the visitors experience.

Do your homework, and use a reliable and dependable vendor.
okoshi2002 is offline  
Apr 7th, 2012, 10:47 AM
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I am not trying to argue about this but Cuzco Peru (where people usually arrive from Lima to visit Macchu Pichu, the Inca Trail) is at 11,000 feet and Puno is at 12,600. I cannot find any advice from a medical or travel medicine organization that says do not take showers for visiting this part of South America. If someone can cite one I would love to see it.
colduphere is offline  
Apr 8th, 2012, 12:42 AM
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Here is a really useful website on the subject;


It provided a lot of information on all aspects of altitude, and AMS, prevention and what to do if affected. Try as I might, I could not find anything linking showering or bathing!

I have spent a one month plus at altitude in South America of the world and usually get affected to some degree. The worst time was when we flew directly into Cusco from sea level in Lima where I had a severe headache for a couple of days. Oxygen at the hotel provided short term relief but simply delays proper acclimatisation. Gradual ascent is the only real way of avoiding altitude issues and IMMEDIATE descent if AMS strikes, but I doubt that is probably easier said than done for you.

Acetazolamide (diamox)is regarded as a preventative treatment but does not work for everyone. I would consult a doctor to ensure that it is ok for you personally as it can cause side effects and may react with other drugs you might be be taking.

Age and sex are no indication of how you may be effected the only real factor is time and 3 days is simply not enough to get acclimatised for most people.
crellston is offline  
Apr 8th, 2012, 01:08 AM
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This is all that really useful webpage says about prevention:

"Go up slowly, take it easy, and give your body time to get used to the altitude. The body has an amazing ability to acclimatise to altitude, but it needs time. For instance, it takes about a week to adapt to an altitude of 5000m."

So, there you have it.


Anyways, let me clarify what I said. Since many doesn't seem to understand.

I am telling the OP to do as little as possible during the first 12-24 hours, and that includes taking a shower or bath. Doesn't mean the whole duration. It is part of the "do nothing" for the first day. Why? Because many may not realize taking a shower or bath can be a "challenge" to the body. So, just don't do it. Not necessary to take any chance for a visit to Tibet for the OP.


And for those still interested, I went to Tibet for 3 weeks in 2010. Flew straight from sea-level to Lhasa. I had no headache, I didn't throw up. I slept well the first night (and every night thereafter). Ate well the whole time. Never used any drugs or oxygen.

Of course, it's totally personal. Every person has different reaction. But I strongly BELIEVE (since it cannot be proven) one major factor is that I did nothing for basically the first 24 hours after arriving there. Except crossing the street from our hotel to have some noodles the first evening.
rkkwan is offline  
Apr 8th, 2012, 04:35 AM
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Altitude sickness is not dependent on your age/physical state/gender/anything but, well, altitude and you.

I stayed in Reuti, Hasliberg region @ 10,000 ft; no problems. Went to Cusco and higher, not an issue. But Lhasa? Oh my. Worst headache I've ever had in my life (and I get migraines) plus, of course, that whole breathing thing. I think there are two reasons for this: flying straight into Tibet from Chengdu (at sea level) so no acclimation time, and being with an all-Chinese tour group--we kinda "hit the ground running." But it was worth it, for sure. However, if there is any way for you to go gradually and to follow the "don't move" advice, I'm sure you'll do better. (I did have some altitude sickness in Ladakh, as well, but not as severe; again, it was a flight from sea level to high altitude, no in-between.)
Amy is offline  
Apr 8th, 2012, 05:13 AM
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I have found a few tour companies, but no medical authorities anywhere, who suggest avoiding baths or showers. One says you need to take it easy, the other says taking a shower may give you a cold. Here is an entertaining thread on the subject:

colduphere is offline  
Apr 8th, 2012, 07:31 AM
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A truly excellent and amusing thread colduphere!
crellston is offline  
Apr 8th, 2012, 09:38 AM
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Crellston - I am avid reader of your posts and blogs. Amazing stuff.

That is an excellent link. And it in turn links to so many other great web sites. This is clearly a topic of interest to many people.

We are still uncertain if diamox created more problems than it solved on the IT. I know you did Lares. We hope to give that one a try after EBC and Kilimanjaro.

But those trips remain somewhat up in the air. The other person here says 14,000 feet is her ceiling.
colduphere is offline  
Apr 8th, 2012, 11:43 PM
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colduphere - EBC & Kili are on our list too - who knows we may meet up on a summit one day!
crellston is offline  
Apr 9th, 2012, 09:44 AM
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The OP may be interested in this approach to managing altitude sickness. Though remember to keep movement to a minimum:

colduphere is offline  

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