Hajj Pilgrimage & Health

The Hajj pilgrimage is one of the largest human gatherings in the world, attracting millions of people each year from various parts of the globe. Due to the dense crowds and exposure to hot weather, pilgrims often face numerous health challenges, such as physical exhaustion, heatstroke, infectious diseases, gastrointestinal issues, and food poisoning. Therefore, those planning to perform Hajj must prioritise their health to be fully prepared to endure the physical demands and adhere strictly to health guidelines issued by the relevant authorities.

Pre-Hajj Guidelines:

Health Fitness: Maintain good physical fitness by exercising regularly and consuming balanced, nutritious meals that provide the body with sufficient energy and endurance for the pilgrimage.

Medical Consultation: Pregnant women, the elderly, and those with chronic illnesses should consult their doctor about a month before departure to assess their health status and make any necessary adjustments to their medication or treatment plan.
Moreover, ensure you carry an adequate supply of necessary medications for the duration of the Hajj.

Health Report: Carry a detailed health report that outlines your medical condition and medication dosages, facilitating medical care if needed during the trip.

Vaccinations: Receive the required vaccinations at least two weeks before departure to ensure immunity against infectious diseases. These include the meningococcal vaccine, seasonal flu vaccine, pneumococcal vaccine, and any other vaccines recommended by your doctor. Retain the international vaccination certificate issued by authorised health centres.

Personal Kit: Pack a personal health kit containing burn ointments, fever reducers, hand sanitisers, and essential hygiene products like towels, toothpaste, and toothbrushes.

During Hajj Guidelines:

Avoid Conflicts: Hajj brings together people from diverse backgrounds; cooperating with others helps facilitate the pilgrimage process and reduces accidents and health issues.

Sun Protection: Avoid prolonged standing or walking under direct sunlight. Use umbrellas to prevent heatstroke and heat exhaustion.

Regular Rest: Take regular breaks during the rituals to help the body regain energy and vitality.

Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water and fluids to compensate for sweating. Avoid excessive consumption of diuretics like coffee and tea, which can cause severe thirst and dehydration.

Personal Hygiene: Maintain personal hygiene by regularly washing hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based sanitisers, especially before preparing or eating food and after using the restroom. Wear masks in crowded places, use tissues when coughing or sneezing, and dispose of them properly to limit the spread of infectious diseases.

Licensed Barbers: Use only licensed barbers, ensure they wash their hands thoroughly before shaving, and use sterilised or disposable shaving tools.

Appropriate Clothing: Wear loose, cotton clothing that covers the body well to protect the skin from the sun and prevent chafing. Take care of your feet and wear comfortable shoes to avoid falls.

Food Safety: Cook food thoroughly, refrigerate it, and avoid leaving it at room temperature for more than two hours to prevent bacterial growth and food poisoning.

Avoid the Sick: Stay away from people showing symptoms of illness, do not share personal items with them, wear masks if you exhibit any health symptoms, and follow the Saudi Ministry of Health’s guidelines. Report any injuries or emergencies immediately.

Post-Hajj Guidelines:

Rest and Recovery: After Hajj, many pilgrims experience fatigue, muscle pain, and other symptoms due to the exertion and exposure during the rituals. Thus getting plenty of rest, sleep, hydration, and maintaining a balanced diet to replenish the body’s nutrients is essential.

Medical Follow-up: Consult a doctor if you develop signs of infection, such as a cough or fever, within the first two weeks after returning home, while avoiding close contact with vulnerable individuals, such as the elderly, pregnant women, children, and those with chronic illnesses.

By: Dr Badreyya Al-Harmi, Consultant Public Health, Emirates Public Health Association

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