Every Muslim, who is physically and financially able, must make the Hajj at least once. It is one of the most memorable and spiritually edifying experiences in the life of a Muslim. So, what is it like to prepare for and perform this physically grueling, once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage?
One of the most important challenges to be prepared for is protecting yourself from the chances of catching diseases that affect your health. Approximately 2 million pilgrims gather in certain places at specified times. This can present major health challenges to them.
The following are some health issues and present prevention tips anyone should find useful before embarking on Hajj:
Consult your physician
Consult your physician to know about the new preventive procedures and necessary vaccines.
Pilgrims must carry on their personal medical card that explains their medical condition in detail for receiving prompt treatment in case of emergency.
Most of us are not acclimatized to the intense heat that is experienced during Hajj. This leaves us open to the life-threatening conditions of heat stress and dehydration.
Substantial amount of liquid is lost through perspiration; hence, the pilgrim is advised to drink at frequent intervals to compensate the loss.
Limit your sun exposure
Use sunscreen and wear approved sunglasses. Avoid direct exposure to sunlight. Use an umbrella or other protective gadget.
Wear a broad rimed hat along with loose light coloured clothing (These clothes are to be worn when not in the state of Ihram).
Watch what you are drinking
Water may be contaminated. To avoid such diseases as Hepatitis A, typhoid, and cholera, try using bottled water, carbonated beverages, boiled water, hot coffee and tea, as these are generally safe.
Wipe bottle and can tops and use your own straws.
Use bottled water or boiled water for cooking and making ice.
Watch where and what you eat
- Contaminated food can transmit diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and enteritis. Raw, poorly cooked foods, unpasteurized dairy products should be avoided unless prepared in a reputable establishment.
- Wash your hands before and after meals and every time you use the bathroom.
- All fruit and vegetables should be washed thoroughly before consumption.
- Do not leave food exposed to open air, dust, and germs.
- Moreover you may wish to take some antibiotics or anti diarrhea medication on hand.
Avoid unnecessary exhaustion
Hajj requires lots of strenuous physical activity. Although Allah amply rewards all of it, the intense exertion coupled with harsh desert climate can take a serious toll on the body.
The aged, women, patients suffering from heart and respiratory ailments, and the physically challenged Muslims planning on this blessed trip must be accompanied by able bodied and healthy caretakers.
Avoid the usage of contaminated razors
Do not to use contaminated razors while having your hair shaved. A lot of contagious and blood transmitted diseases can be communicated in this way. Use disposable razors and dispose them safely once they have been used.
Use of masks
If you decide on using nose and mouth masks it is highly recommended that you change them frequently because they concentrate a good deal of dust, dirt and germs.
Stay clear of wide-open spaces
To sleep on the streets or under bridges throughout the Hajj season is harmful as these are ideal places for the spread of infectious diseases. It also cause fatigue and exhaustion to those who sleep in the open and exposes them to sunstrokes.
The harmful effects of smoking are too evident to be denied. There is a consensus among contemporary scholars that it is prohibited. The harmful effects are not confined to the smoker himself but the non-smokers around him through passive smoking.
Remember to pack a personal medical kit containing first-aid supplies, and adequate amounts of prescription medication in original containers.
Practice good personal hygiene
- Take all the equipment you need for personal cleanliness.
- Dispose litter in baskets provided for the purpose.
- Do not spit on the ground.
- In order to avoid infectious disease, use the toilets for urination and defecation. Use them properly and keep them clean for others.
Fatigue and lack of sleep from the physically demanding regimen of Hajj rites can lower immunity and resistance, making pilgrims more vulnerable to disease. Getting and staying in good physical shape by regular exercise can ward off illness.
In conclusion, it is a Muslim’s belief that everything that happens in this world is by the will of Allah. Similarly, any illness or misfortune that may or may not befall us is by the will of Allah. Whilst it is true that we should accept whatever “misfortune” befalls us, we are also taught to avoid or reduce the possibility of these “misfortunes” by taking positive steps. We must make all these preparations as they are in line with a well-known saying of Prophet Muhammad (sa),“Tie your camel, then put your trust in Allah.”
Note: The above are general guidelines and are not intended to be a substitute for a consultation with a knowledgeable Hajj travel physician.
Required vaccines for Pakistani Pilgrims
Pakistani Muslims, travelling to Saudi Arabia require a visa, a passport, and proof of having received the inoculations required of any Pakistani citizen going abroad.
Saudi Arabia mandates that travellers to Hajj be vaccinated against meningitis to help prevent illness from contaminated food and water sources. The large crowds strain Saudi Arabia’s sanitation services.
Some physicians also suggest additional vaccinations to protect against typhoid fever, pneumonia, diphtheria / tetanus and malaria.