Prior to visiting Tibet in April 2011 I wanted to reduce the chances of altitude sickness. As we were flying to Lhasa from Shanghai (via Xi'an) we had little chance to acclimatise to the 3600m altitude.
My research led me to believe a medicine called "Diamox" (acetazolamide) would help.
I visited the family doctor (NHS GP in the UK) and luckily she knew all there was to know about Diamox. Initially, she advised me to read a very helpful booklet written for the benefit of people doing medical expeditions. It is available here in different languages: medex.org.uk//medex_book/about_book.php
After deciding to get some Diamox my doctor provided a private prescription.
I got some 250mg tablets. It was recommended to take half a tablet, twice per day. Once in the morning, once half an hour before bed (but always subject to advice from your own doctor).
I took the first dose one day before arriving in Lhasa (though it is recommended that you try Diamox much sooner before visiting Tibet to test for side effects).
About 1 hour after taking the first 1/2 tablet, I needed to visit the toilet 3 times in fairly quick succession. Diamox is a mild diuretic - it makes you expel water from your body. Subsequent doses did not cause the same thing to happen, luckily.
Throughout my trip to Tibet I took the Diamox every day in the same manner - 1/2 a tablet in the morning and 1/2 a tablet 30 minutes before bed. I also drank copious amounts of water - 2 to 3 litres per day. The air was incredibly dry and dehydration can increase the chance of altitude sickness.
It is useful to take the Diamox at night before sleeping. This helps to reduce the strange phenomenon known as "periodic breathing" or "Cheyne Stokes respiration." When this happens, your breathing alternates between rapid breathing and almost not breathing at all for a short time. You might sleep better if it can be reduced as it is a bit frightening for some people.
I can report that:-
- I did not experience symptoms of altitude sickness - not even headaches
- there were no noticeable side effects from taking the medication
- compared to some other tourists I was in much better condition on arrival in Lhasa
- I think it helped to enhance my trip to Tibet