The annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca is seen to be as the largest assembly in the world, drawing more than 2.8 million Muslims from across the globe to take part in this physical demanding journey.
The pilgrimage is known to expect mass gatherings during this period, posing several major health and safety risks. One of the most significant health hazards includes the transmission of infectious diseases; especially those transmitted by air or by contaminated food and water. In the wake of the recent Ebola and Coronavirus outbreaks, pilgrims are prone to various kinds of infections and viruses.
This is once-in-a-lifetime experience for most Muslims and requires proper preparation and planning before embarking on this journey. Practicing good hygiene, eating properly cooked meals in small portions and staying hydrated is a must.
Dr. Ashraf Allam, Regional Vice President, Mundipharma Middle East and Africa region provides us with essential tips to protect ourselves against various viruses including MERS while travelling for Hajj.
Tip #1 - Eat Healthy
It is very important to consume fresh food at all times. In addition, consume small meals throughout the day to maintain blood sugar levels, to increase your metabolism rate, thus giving you better stamina during your journey. Foods such as yoghurt, milk, and fruit juices provide vital nutrients which keeps your diet well-balanced.
Tip #2 - Stay Hydrated
Water is always the best form of fluid during the Hajj pilgrimage. It is important that you stay hydrated and drinking 8-10 glasses of water per day. Carry bottled water at all times and avoid carbonated drinks where possible during the entire journey.
Tip #3 – Protect yourself from the sun
Avoid exposure to the sun for long, extended periods. Use an umbrella when necessary. Light colored umbrellas are recommended. Sun strokes are also very common, so it is necessary to avoid direct sunlight for long hours.
Tip #4 - Keep Yourself Physically Fit
Having to walk in the heat, running from Safa to Marwa, are some of the common rituals performed during the Hajj season. Start watching what you eat and get involved in any other kind of permissible activity you enjoy to keep yourself physically fit before the Hajj season.
Tip #5 – Handkerchief is your best friend
Use handkerchiefs when coughing or sneezing by covering the nose and mouth. Discard used tissues and handkerchiefs
Tip #6 - Wash your hands
Washing hands frequently, particularly before and after certain activities removes germs and can help reduce the spread of illness. Carry a hand-sterilizing gel at all times.
Tip #7 – Avoid contact with sick animals!
The source of the MERS infection is said to have originated from animals. In the Middle East, MERS Corona Virus has been found in camels. As a general precaution, anyone visiting farms, markets, barns, or other places where camels and other animals are present should practice general hygiene measures, including regular hand washing before and after touching animals, and should avoid contact with sick animals.
Tip #8 - Vaccinate yourself
Hajj is known as the world’s largest mass gathering. It is very important that before you commence your journey, you have all the proper vaccinations required to protect yourself from any infection or virus.
Tip #9 - Check your heart.
Hajj is a strenuous physical activity, especially for the elderly. Heart strokes are seen to be as one of the common ailments faced by the pilgrimmers during the journey.
In order to avoid this, it is advisable that you visit your physician to check your heart’s condition and discuss what kind of activities you should refrain from doing.
Tip #10 – Carry a Travel Health Kit
A basic travel health kit is important to have no matter where you travel. And since Hajj involves mass gatherings of people, it is important to carry a small bag with all the essentials for common colds, stomach flu or even small cuts or bruises that one may face during the trip.