Dealing with Mild Altitude Sickness

Last year, we went to Tibet as part of our China trip.  Rather than fly into Lhasa, we had decided to take the train so we could acclimatize to the altitude slowly. We flew into Xining and then took the train from Xining to Lhasa.

We live in the prairies of Canada and regularly go to the Rocky Mountains and stay at an elevation of 1,350 m  or 4,300 ft. My body was used to this altitude, but not for what we encountered in Tibet.

I started to get a headache while in Xining (2,275 m, 7,470 ft).  I sometimes suffer from headaches, in the back of my head from stiff back muscles, and originally thought it was this.  But this headache got worse as we climbed higher and higher towards Lhasa (3,595 m, 11,800 ft). We finally decided that the headache was in fact due to the altitude.

It must be noted here that Murray did not suffer one little bit from the altitude.  Why am I so lucky???

In Lhasa, I took Advil to get rid of the headache, moved slower and breathed deeply.  I did not drink tons of water as I was concerned about not finding washrooms when I needed them. We had a couple of days in Lhasa before heading towards Mt Everest Base Camp (5,150 m, 16,900 ft) during which my symptoms declined and I started to feel better.  Just a note – I cannot take the common drug prescribed for altitude sickness as I am allergic to one of the ingredients.

On the day we drove up and up towards Mt Everest, my symptoms started again, but I was okay if I just sat in the vehicle breathing deeply.  As soon as we got out to eat lunch, the small exertion was enough to make me nauseous and not be able to eat lunch.  Back into the vehicle to sit and breathe deep.

Murray bought a couple of cylinders of oxygen from a store (it is surprising how available oxygen is) just in case I needed them at the Everest Base Camp.  We spent the night in a hotel at Tingri (4,300 m, 14,000 ft) before going to the base camp.  This gave me extra time to acclimatize and I felt fine by the time we got to the base camp and did not need the oxygen.

I have included a High Altitude List in the Packing List Menu.  These are my notes and suggestions for anyone with mild altitude sickness.  Before going on a trip that involves going to high altitude, you should talk to your doctor.  Also, check out the many websites on altitude sickness so that you are well informed.

Darjeeling’s altitude is 2,045 m (6,710 ft) which will give me some time to acclimatize for Bhutan. I will know what the symptoms are and how to alleviate them. A couple of the places we are overnighting in Bhutan are up at 3,000 m or 10,000 ft, which is almost the elevation of Lhasa, so I am prepared to deal with mild altitude sickness once again.

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