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Diamox - my experience in preventing altitude sickness

UK
Level Contributor
4 posts
92 reviews
Diamox - my experience in preventing altitude sickness

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

Bunbury, Western...
Level Contributor
617 posts
38 reviews
1. Re: Diamox - my experience in preventing altitude sickness

Thank you for that report. We are going to Tibet in October so it is good for us to be as informed as possible about Diamox. Much appreciated.

Rocklin, California
Level Contributor
590 posts
48 reviews
2. Re: Diamox - my experience in preventing altitude sickness

Thank you for your reassuring review of your Diamox experience!

My doctor recommeded that we also take Potassium along with the Diamox.

Bunbury, Western...
Level Contributor
617 posts
38 reviews
3. Re: Diamox - my experience in preventing altitude sickness

Please tell us what the potassium was for.

Chapala, Mexico
Level Contributor
117 posts
5 reviews
4. Re: Diamox - my experience in preventing altitude sickness

When you excrete fluids, you also lose potassium. People who take diuretics usually have to take a potassium supplement to replace the potassium lost. Symptoms of low potassium are muscle cramping.

Bunbury, Western...
Level Contributor
617 posts
38 reviews
5. Re: Diamox - my experience in preventing altitude sickness

Thank you for that. I get a lot of muscle cramps so perhaps I better start taking potassium now rather than waiting till we get to Tibet :)

MaineUSA
Level Contributor
866 posts
176 reviews
6. Re: Diamox - my experience in preventing altitude sickness

We took Diamox during our 8 day trip to Tibet in late October of 2006. We arrived in Kathmandu on a Sunday and started taking the drug. We flew to Lhasa on a Tuesday morning amd then traveled back to Kathmandu after a couple days in Lhasa. We had mild effects of the altitude but nothing terriblly uncomfortable. We read quite a lot about altitude sickness on the Tibet forum before we left. One thing we learned is that reaction to altitude really varies by person and age is not a significant factor.

Chapala, Mexico
Level Contributor
117 posts
5 reviews
7. Re: Diamox - my experience in preventing altitude sickness

It's important to realize that those with certain medical problems, i.e. cardiac, pulmonary disease, have difficulty tolerating high altitudes and many cannot tolerate them at all. My doctor in Germany told me before I left that I would be OK as long as the altitude was under 2,000 m (about 6,000 ft). I now live in Mexico at an altitude just under that and was told last week by a pulmonary specialist that I would do better at a lower altitude.

If you have any medical conditions, please check with your physician before making plans to travel to any high altitude locations to get medical clearance first.

Manila, Philippines
Level Contributor
366 posts
62 reviews
8. Re: Diamox - my experience in preventing altitude sickness

thanks for tips! My friend & I are going this October. We're getting paranoid because the people we knew who went to Tibet were all hospitalized. So now we're exercising, reading as many health articles as possible, and trying to eat the proper food.

Hopefully, by the time we're there, we'll forget about our paranoia.

I do have a question though. Can we bring in any medicine to Lhasa? Or is the customs strict on it?

MaineUSA
Level Contributor
866 posts
176 reviews
9. Re: Diamox - my experience in preventing altitude sickness

We brought all of our prescription medications with no problem. In the USA all prescriptions carry a label that indicates they are exactly that. In our extensive travels since 2002 I can't recall an instance where our medications were given other than a cursory inspection. But we are in our 60's, so we're probably not high on the radar screen.

St Albert
Level Contributor
20 posts
38 reviews
10. Re: Diamox - my experience in preventing altitude sickness

We will be travelling to Tibet for a couple of days in October, flying in to Lhasa.

When do you start taking Diamox? On arrival or a day before arrival. Thanks