Medicine for High Altitude Sickness in Tibet

Altitude sickness is the biggest health risk for travelling to Tibet and many travelers feels a little trepidation about altitude sickness, which is common at high altitudes due to the decreasing availability of oxygen. By far, the best way to prevent altitude sickness is to gradually ascend and allow the body to adapt. If you have no choice but to ascend too high and too fast, you might consider taking medication. It is important to note that we are not medical experts and that it is important that you consult with your doctor before undertaking any course of action related to altitude sickness medication. This page only gives you a reference.

Western Medicine:

1. Diamox (Acetazolamide)

Acetazolamide has been well studied in clinical trials and is widely considered to be effective in preventing altitude sickness and speeding acclimatization. It is by far the most commonly prescribed medicine for the prevention of altitude sickness. Anyone ascending over 1600 feet/500 meters a day is regarded as Moderate Risk and the medicine should be considered. While anyone ascending to more than 11,400 feet/3500 meters in one day is strongly recommended to take the medicine. It is useful as a preventative against AMS and HACE, but not HAPE.

2. Dexamethasone

For those who may have an allergic reaction to acetazolamide. Generally more used as a treatment. It speeds acclimatization and effectively treats AMS, but is better for prophylaxis than treatment. Dexamethasone is more effective than acetazolamide at rapidly relieving the symptoms of moderate to severe AMS.

3. Nifedipine

For prevention of HAPE in people particularly susceptible to which can be used for highland pulmonary edema. 

4. Others

Tadalafil: For HAPE
Sildenafil: For HAPE
Salmeterol: For HAPE

Chinese Traditional Medicine:

1. Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola crenulata is a plant found commonly in high altitudes (3500m-5000m) in mountainous regions of Tibet and western Sichuan, which is used to extract rhodioloside. Rhodiola rosea has been categorized as an adaptogen by scientists due to its ability to increase resistance against a variety of chemical, biological and physical stressors and to help the body to recover homeostasis. At present, Rhodiola is widely used in domestic and international markets. The raw material is rhodiola crenulata with high effective ingredients.

2. Gaoyuan’an

Hippophae is the herb resource of Gaoyuan’an which is used to prevent AMS High altitude. It’s very good preventive and treatment effects for Altitude Sickness and AMS. 

3. Others

Besides, lucid ganoderma, Codonopsis pilosula and American Ginseng all can effectively prevent high altitude diseases. 

The Altitudes of Different Places in Tibet

Place Altitude Place Altitude
Lhasa 3658 m Nyingchi 3000 m
12001 ft 9843 ft
Nagqu 4507 m Tsedang 3500 m
14787 ft 11483 ft
Qamdo 3205 m Shigatse 3836 m
10515 ft 12585 ft
Damshung 4200 m Gyantse 4040 m
13780 ft 13255 ft
Pome 2750 m Tingri 4300 m
9022 ft 14108 ft
Amdo 4800 m Zayui 2325 m
15748 ft 7628 ft

Read more about Altitude Sickness in Tibet.