Monday, December 29, 2008

Are you fit enough for the trip to Tibet ?

Guess what will happen when you are in a place with an average altitude of above 4,000 meters? That’s right, AMS is common when traveling in Tibet due to the decreasing availability of oxygen. What’s AMS? How can we deal with it?

AMS is short for Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), also called Altitude Sickness. It is the biggest health risk to tourists in Tibet. The occurrence of AMS is dependent on the altitude, the ascent rate and individual physical condition. Symptoms of AMS include headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, breathlessness, irritability, loss of appetite and disturbed sleep. Most visitors to Tibet will suffer from at least some symptoms that will generally disappear through acclimatization in several hours to several days. Mild AMS usually will not interfere with mild activity.

However AMS can be very serious, with the most serious symptoms being High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE), which can be fatal. An elderly(77-year-old man) Hong Kong tourist died from altitude sickness on the trip to Tibet in 2006. Symptoms of HAPE include weakness, shortness of breath, even at rest, impending suffocation at night, and a persistent productive cough with white, watery, or frothy fluid. Symptoms of HPCE may include headache, ataxia, weakness, hallucinations, psychotic behavior, coma and loss of memory. Both approach and strike at night and can be fatal! Immediate descent is the surest treatment.

If you are planning a trip to Tibet, make sure that you’re in good condition both physically and psychologically. Not everyone is suitable for Tibet. Visitors who suffer from high blood pressure, respiratory problems, severe heart disease, lung, other organ problems or anemia should not travel to Tibet. If you are eager to, then at least consult your doctor before making the decision to visit Tibet.

But don’t worry too much. For people who are in good health, AMS can be lessened or avoided with proper acclimatization. Mild AMS symptoms can be treated with proper medication. If medication does not relieve the symptoms, go to hospital or evacuate immediately to safe altitude! The following is some advise when traveling in Tibet.

How to prevent or lessen the effects of AMS:

1. Avoid catching cold before you entering Tibet.

2. Rest right after your arrival. Do not over exert and only partake in light activity immediate after your arrival;

3. Drink extra fluids. The mountain air is dry and cold and moisture is lost as you breathe. Evaporation of sweat may occur unnoticed and result in dehydration.

4. Eat light, high-carbohydrate meals for more energy.

5. Don't smoke, drink alcohol or take other depressants such as tranquilizers and sleeping pills. These will depress the respiratory drive and limit oxygen intake.

6. Don't push yourself when climbing up to passes, rather take plenty of breaks.

7. Do not take showers or bathes too frequently especially on your first night in Tibet. This will help you avoid catching severe colds.

8. Warm clothes should be taken to keep away the cold due to the large temperature differences during any given day in Tibet. And it also receives a great deal of sunshine, sunglasses, suntan oil, and a sun hat are indispensable items.

9. It is significant that you report any symptoms of AMS immediately to other group members in the trip.

Please bear in mind that traveling in Tibet on the whole, is more challenging than in any other part of China.

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