What to do at high altitudes

They reportedly had to wait for four long hours in the cold.

By the time help arrived, it was too late for the two Singaporeans who had died of altitude sickness in Tibet, said Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao yesterday.

This is according to a Chinese trekker from Guangzhou who was among five passers-by present at the scene.

The deceased - believed to be a 66-year-old man and a 61-year-old woman - were part of a 10-member Singapore tour group of Buddhist devotees.

They were visiting Mount Kailash, a 6,638m-tall mountain considered sacred by Buddhists and Hindus.

Eyewitnesses said that during the wait for rescue on Monday, cardiopulmonary resuscitation was performed on the woman. The Chinese trekker also got an oxygen tank for her. The man had died earlier.

In a statement e-mailed to my paper, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said it had dispatched an officer from its embassy in Beijing to Lhasa on Tuesday to provide assistance to the affected Singaporeans.

"We are working closely with the local authorities to facilitate the return of the remaining eight members of the tour group to Singapore," said an MFA spokesman.

"We extend our condolences to the families of the two Singaporeans who died and have been in contact with their next- of-kin in Singapore."

Trip to Mount Kailash believed to bring good luck

Trip to Mount Kailash believed to bring good luck

Located in the western region of Tibet, the popular mountain is visited by thousands of pilgrims each year.

A basic pilgrimage involves a 52km walk around the peak, which netizens have described as "treacherous" and "difficult to navigate".

Besides the rocky terrain, pilgrims have to be prepared for cold weather, such as heavy rain or snow.

The full walk typically takes about three days, but some pilgrims try to complete the journey within a day. It is believed that the trip will help cleanse sins and bring good luck.

Altitude sickness is a potentially fatal condition that affects those who are not accustomed to high elevations of 1,500m and above.

However, it is more common at elevations above 2,500m.

It can affect individuals of all ages and fitness levels, said Dr David Teo, medical director of International SOS, a global medical-assistance company.

He added that people most at risk are "those who have experienced altitude illness, people who have heart or lung problems, and people under the age of 50" who tend to ignore the symptoms of altitude sickness.


What to do at high altitudes

What to do at high altitudes

Due to Singapore being near sea level, most Singaporeans are not used to high altitudes.

This makes them more vulnerable to altitude sickness. Symptoms include breathing difficulties and headaches.

If treatment is delayed, it can lead to a coma and eventually death. The following are some ways to deal with altitude sickness, according to Dr Kevin Teh, who has six years of experience working with pressure-related sicknesses:

Acclimatise yourself to the altitude. Depending on the altitude, you will need to spend several weeks in areas of gradually increasing altitude, for your body to get used to the height.

Carry supplement oxygen. One of the main causes of altitude sickness is the reduced amount of oxygen reaching your lungs.

Have a mobile hyperbaric chamber on standby. A hyper- baric chamber allows you to control the air pressure for the person inside, simulating low-land conditions.

Recognise symptoms early, so that evacuation can be made promptly. Symptoms can improve dramatically once you reach lower ground.

Stick to lower ground. There is no real cure for altitude sickness other than descending. "The guaranteed way to prevent it is to not go up the mountain," said Dr Teh.

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