Stay healthy during the Hajj pilgrimage
The Hajj - the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and the largest mass gathering in the world. The Hajj pilgrimage is undertaken by millions of Muslims every year and staying healthy and strong during the physically demanding journey is crucial. Maintaining energy and bodily strength during Hajj necessitates that certain safety precautions be taken. After all, the pilgrim would most likely not want to be consumed by thoughts of discomfort and stay kept away from his or her primary focus of worship.
Officials often identify sporadic outbreaks of diarrhea, respiratory, or blood borne diseases during and immediately following the Hajj. Those with pre-existing heart or respiratory conditions are more likely to experience negative health consequences when participating in Hajj events.
Here are key tips on how to protect yourself from the three frequent health issues that pilgrims, or any person engaged in a physically demanding journey, may face: infections, food poisoning and heat strokes.
A common symptom pilgrims are prone is diarrhea, often caused by food poisoning. Food may be either undercooked or cooked properly but kept outside for hours in unsafe conditions. In either case, food is prone to bacterial growth, which can lead to diarrhea, abdominal cramps and feeling weak.
If something tastes wrong, if chicken is still red, or if you think food has been kept out for more than two hours, the motto to remember in this case is "when in doubt, throw it out." You can resort to less risky food such as packaged cream cheese, bread, rice, potatoes, canned unopened food, and smoked meats.
If you do get diarrhea, adjusting your diet is recommended. Avoid all fiber containing food such as whole grains, beans, most fruits, and vegetables. If you're lactose intolerant, stay away from dairy as well. Fatty or fried food can upset your stomach and worsen your diarrhea.
You can eat White bread, boiled potatoes, white pasta, boiled eggs, bananas, peeled apples, and grilled lean meats such as grilled fish or chicken breast.
In the wake of the recent Ebola and Coronavirus outbreaks, pilgrims are prone to infection. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a new virus that has caused respiratory illness in a number of people in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia. Most people infected with MERS-CoV had severe illness and pneumonia, and about half of them have died. Pilgrims can help protect themselves from respiratory illnesses by washing their hands often; not touching their mouth, nose, or eyes; and avoiding contact with sick people.
A leading cause of infection, however, is the influenza virus, which targets the upper respiratory tract and may lead to illnesses such as pneumonia.
For shaving, be aware that unclean razors can transmit viruses such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV. Several measures are recommended to prevent the infection.
* Strict hygiene is the ultimate method of prevention during Hajj. Washing hands frequently, particularly before and after certain activities is especially important to remove germs and reduce the spread of illness.
* Wash your hands before and after eating food, before and after treating a wound, after using the toilet and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
* Keeping small bottles of sanitizers during Hajj is a good idea.
* In all circumstances, keep your hands away from three key spots in your body: your eyes, your nose and your mouth. These are all easy routes that infection can reach your body.
* Pilgrims should also avoid hugging, or shaking hands when greeting others. These activities are other ways you can either catch or transmit infections.
* Travelers should be shaved using disposable blades at officially designated centers, or use their own disposable blades and avoid sharing personal hygiene tools.
* Certain vitamins and minerals can play a role in strengthening your immunity, including the mineral Zinc. Nuts, pumpkin seeds and chocolate are all practical sources of zinc that you can keep handy.
Heat related illnesses
Drinking enough fluids coupled with pacing yourself during the pilgrimage helping maintain adequate hydration. Water is always the best form of fluid, and you should drink it abundantly. Both hot weather and physical activity increase your needs for water, so ideally you should be aiming for 8-10 glasses of water per day.
Sun strokes are also very common, so it is necessary to avoid direct sunlight for long hours. If you experience symptoms of chills, headache, dizziness, and nausea, move away to a cool area and seek medical help. Remember, don't overexert yourself. Pace your walking and rest in the shade when needed.
* All travellers should be up to date with their routine vaccinations including those against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis and polio.
* Hajj pilgrims must have had a quadrivalent meningococcal vaccination within the previous 3 years (for polysaccharide vaccines) or previous 8 years (for conjugate vaccines) and at least 10 days before arriving in Saudi Arabia.
* Travellers from countries or areas at risk of Yellow Fever must also carry a valid Yellow Fever vaccination certificate.
* Seasonal influenza vaccine is also recommended for pilgrims. You should also discuss with your doctor or travel clinic the need for additional vaccines such as those against pneumococcal pneumonia, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid. Vaccinations should be completed at least 2 weeks prior to departure.