Health guidance for Hajj and Umrah
Hajj is one of the fundamental pillars of Islam. Fard Hajj can only be performed once by those who can afford it. It is therefore very important for those performing Hajj to be both physically and spiritually prepared to perform this once in a lifetime ibadat.
Here are some health guidelines to make the performance of Hajj and Umra such that more time can be devoted to ibadat.
Hajj and Umra are easier for physically fit people. One should improve physical fitness about six to eight weeks before departure. Brisk walks for about 30-45 minutes 2 â€“ 3 times a week going up to 5 km. at a time would be ideal. Start slow and increase. Walk in your â€œIhraamâ€? footwear to break them in so that the footwear becomes user-friendly. If you are over-weight, go on a strict diet and exercise to lose weight.
Wheel chairs are available free of charge in Makkah and Medina.
One should continue to eat a healthy, well balanced diet and should be weary of unusual foods. One should be cautious about food purchased from street vendors. Make sure that your fibre intake is high to avoid constipation.
Constipation is usually caused by inadequate fibre and/or fluid intake. The fear of using â€œunknownâ€? toilets can lead one to postpone the use of the toilet. Familiarise yourself with the toilets, take in adequate fibre (bran cereals, dried fruit, fruit and vegetables) and insist on adequate fluid intake. Constipation leads to Piles and anal fissures, which are unpleasant and painful.
Diarrhea and Vomiting
A common occurrence during travels, it is usually spread by viruses or by infected foods. Make sure that the food source is clean, wash all raw fruit and vegetables thoroughly, peel fruit before eating, and make sure food is well cooked as cooking kills the viruses and bacteria. Viral gastro-enteritis is usually spread by contact with an infected person. Keep away from people who have the virus (diarrhoea usually associated with a fever). If this is not possible, wash hands regularly after touching the infected person. Do not kiss or hug an infected person until the virus is gone. If you are infected, keep away from people for a few days until the virus is gone. Stop vomiting by using anti-emetics like contromet, maxolon, valoid, etc. Do not stop the diarrhoea as the body is trying to get rid of the virus. If diarrhoea occurs more than 6 times in 12 hours, then an anti-diarrhoeal agent like lomotil or Imodium may be used to slow the diarrhoea. Drink extra fluids especially, Zam Zam, rehydrating fluids and fruit juices.
Optimal diabetic control is important and should be attained before departure. Make sure that you have enough of your medicine needs to last you for at least a week after your expected return just in case your flight is delayed. Keep on a strict diet during your stay. Monitor your glucose levels frequently. Beware of fruit juices that have sugar added to them. Take extra precautions not to injure yourself, especially on your feet. Leave enough space in front of you when walking in crowded situations.
High Blood Pressure
Make sure that your blood pressure is well controlled before departure. Make sure that you take your medication on time. Those on diuretics may need their medication adjusted in view of the climatic conditions there. This should be done on the advice of a doctor. Consult a doctor if you experience blurred vision, unexplained headaches, dizziness, disorientation or swelling of the ankles and feet.
The dry weather conditions in Saudi Arabia can cause cracking of the skin, especially on the feet in the heel area. Deep fissures can develop with a possibility of infection. Cellulitis can occur requiring the person to keep the feet elevated for 3-4 days. If this occurs before Hajj starts, it can make it very difficult. This is especially important for diabetics. Moisturise regularly with a good moisturizer like Vaseline, heel balms and urea-containing moisturizers. Glycosol/glycerol cream available in Saudi Arabia is very useful. Use socks, ordinary or leather to protect the feet on the marble floors.
Fungal infections especially of the feet should be treated before departure. Dry the areas between the toes after wudhu. Use an anti-fungal cream regularly. Fungal infections can also lead to cellulitis.
Avoid back strain as healing can take anything from 2 â€“ 6 weeks. Travel with light bags preferably with wheels. Avoid lifting heavy items. If you have to lift, ask for help or lift with a straight back by bending your knees. At the first sign of back pain, stop whatever activity is causing the pain to prevent it from becoming worse. Seek medical attention early.
Those people who suffer from arthritis of the back, hips, knees or ankles should lose weight as fast as possible prior to departure if they are overweight. Start treatment before departure to get the arthritis under control. Be guided by your doctor or physiotherapist on the exercises you can do to strengthen your muscles. Stronger muscles take the pressure off the joints. Carry your medications with you.
Continue your preventative medication diligently and continuously. Take the medication for controlling an attack of gout from your doctor just in case of an attack. Be strict with your diet, avoiding purine-containing foods like red meat, canned sardines or anchovies,
Most medicines are easily available in Saudi Arabia. Because there is a possibility that your chronic medication (medicines you take daily for whatever reason) may not be available in Saudi Arabia, please ensure that you have adequate supplies of your medication, taking an extra weeksâ€™ supply just in case your flight is delayed. Also, keep some money in reserve just in case you have to purchase some medications.
It is essential that you take a letter from your doctor specifying your illness/illnesses, the chronic medication you are on and the dosage.
Medicines that may be helpful to take include pain-killers, tablets for nausea (maxolon, contromet, valoid), for stomach cramps (buscopan, scopex), for diarrhoea (Imodium, lomotil), for runny nose (allergex, sinu-med, Actifed), for infections (amoxicillin, erymycin if allergic to penicillin), phenergan for allergies and any other medication that you may need on an intermittent basis. Avoid carrying liquid medicines in bottles.
The Marble Floors in the Haramain
The marble can be very slippery when wet. Please take extra care to avoid slipping. Leather socks are available and allowed. Severe injuries can occur on the elbows, wrists or hips from a fall. In bright sunshine, the marble shines brilliantly. Those people who have sensitive eyes should wear sun glasses. Walking on the marble bare feet can cause the feet to dry out, e.g., during Tawaf. Wear leather socks if this becomes a problem. Use moisturizers, e. g., Heal balms, Glycosol/glycerol/ cream.
From the 4th of Zulhaj, ensure that you are physically and spiritually fit for the 5 days of Hajj. Treat any conditions that require attention. Do not over-exert yourself. Have adequate rest. Try to connect with Allah Subahanahu Wathaâ€™ala. The main purpose of your visit is close. You need to be in peak condition.
The Five Days of Hajj
Be as helpful as possible to all around you. Do not push under any circumstance. Keep a space in front of you so that your feet are not injured. Protect the vulnerable in your company. Remain focused on your mission. Do not get side-tracked with worldly matters. Avoid people who distract you from your purpose. Carry your medication in a safe, dry place. Insulin must be kept in a cold pack. Do not carry unnecessary items of baggage. The lighter your bag, the better.
By taking care of your health, you will not compromise someone elses Hajj.
Please take your medications on time. Watch your diet if you are diabetic.
Do not over-eat. Eat small meals, have adequate fluid intake and keep out of the sun unless necessary. Do not deliberately avoid fluids to prevent you from using the toilets. This can have disastrous consequences (heat exhaustion and dehydration).
Do not rush to stone the Jamarat. Avoid bending to look for lost footwear in crowded situations. You may get pushed to the ground.
If an injury is sustained, clean it well with an antiseptic solution or water; use an antibiotic or antiseptic cream if available. Seek medical help for deep wounds or severe sprains.