BACKGROUND: Due to the large number of tourists travelling to Tibet, it is important to know the occurrence of altitude sickness in this population. Such empirical data can be used for planning health services in Tibet, give advice to travellers about altitude sickness, and provide an opportunity for assessing changes over time in any repeat of the survey.
OBJECTIVES: 1) Background about acute altitude sickness. 2) Develop a questionnaire and to conduct a pilot study, to assess the prevalence and associated factors for acute mountain sickness among tourists in Lhasa (3658 m).
METHOD AND MATERIAL: The first part of this project is based on search in the PubMed database, and on review of recent literature. The pilot is a cross-sectional study. During January and February 2008, tourists at two selected hotels in Lhasa were given a questionnaire after arrival, preferably after 48 hours. 30 tourists participated. The questionnaire is based on the Lake Louise consensus that assesses symptoms of acute altitude sickness. It also contains questions on subjects such as gender, age, height/weight, altitude of residence, travel method, present state of health, prophylaxis, symptom management and pre-knowledge about altitude sickness.
RESULTS/CONCLUSION: Review of literature shows that a comprehensive study on the incidence of acute mountain sickness among tourists in Tibet is needed. The pilot study has shown that some questions in the questionnaire should be changed/added, and that French-speaking tourists did not participate because of linguistical problems. The method has worked satisfactorily, but must be followed even stricter. More search should be done in order to find out if a Chinese translation of Lake Louise exists, and these questions should eventually be substituted in our questionnaire.