Hajj / Umrah Pilgrims
|Hepatitis A + B
One of the most challenging aspects of the pilgrimage is the amount of physical exercise that is required during the pilgrimage. Often a complete set of tawaf can approach a few kilometres worth of distance. Needless to say it would be ideal to prepare oneself physically for the journey by starting an exercise program. What makes the tawaf even more challenging is that it is done barefoot on hard marble floors. Occasionally patients who have diabetes will have trouble with their feet due to complications of severe diabetes. Dry feet are prone to cracking and can lead to wound infections and pain.
For that reason travelers should purchase a non-perfumed lotion from the pharmacy.This will keep the skin moisturized and prevent cracking/infection. Protecting the feet from skin infections is important to all pilgrims especially those who suffer from complications of diabetes. Of note, it is important to choose a skin product that will allow water to penetrate it, thus ensuring ones wudu is not compromised.
Avoid Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
DVT is a type of blood clot in the leg that can develop in people after prolonged flights. It is very dangerous.
In order to decrease the likelihood of developing a DVT during your airplane flight, purchase elastic compression stockings, (especially if your feet tend to swell), to wear during the duration of your flight.
Wear loose, baggy clothing and drink plenty of fluids during the flight.
Finally, stand up and stretch your arms and legs every couple of hours.
Taking Care of Your Body
The Hajj can be physically strenuous, thus one cannot emphasize enough the importance of physically preparing yourself prior to the journey. While overseas, it is essential to get good rest, eat well and drink plenty of fluids.
The sun is also prominent during the day so pack a white umbrella and sunglasses to protect against the sun. Drinking plenty of water will help against dehydration and heat stroke. Furthermore, night temperatures can dip into single digits (Celsius) so ensure a sweater is packed for the tents in Mena and Muzdalifa.
Steaming-hot, well-cooked food is usually safest. Always be careful eating foods from street vendors and unpasteurized dairy products. During Hajj time many food vendors along the street will have meat precooked on the side in preparation of large crowds of customers. Insist on having your food made fresh from the grill/rotisserie. Also peel fruits you purchase from vendors for yourself. Each time you serve yourself from the buffet use a hand sanitizer prior to eating
Zamzam water is readily available throughout the mosques. In Mecca and Medina there are metal cups in the wudu area that many people drink from and is also used to perform wudu. AVOID using the metal cups to drink out of, as you can pick up an infection from it if a sick Hajji used it prior to you. There are plenty of disposable cups throughout the mosque for drinking, ensure that you have picked up an unused disposable cup and use it instead.
If you decide to visit a restaurant, the water may not be from Zamzam. Therefore at such places drink water only from commercially sealed bottles or drink carbonated beverages (pop/soda). Avoid ice as it may have been made from unclean water. Finally depending on where your accommodations are, use bottled/Zamzam water when you brush your teeth.
Although the Saudi government does a commendable job maintaining washroom facilities, there are times where soap is not readily available after utilizing the washroom. This scenario is particularly common in the bathrooms within the food courts of the larger hotels. Therefore keep a miniature travellers version of a non-perfumed hand sanitizer such as Purell with you.
Finally for the men, be mindful of the barbers who cut your hair after completing your Umrah/Hajj. In the rush of Hajj mistakes can occur, so always insist on the barber using a fresh blade to shave your head should you decide to do so. A dirty blade can be the source of numerous concerns including Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Tetanus.
Skin Rashes While in Ihram
Due to warm weather causing perspiration and the fact that only an ihram is worn during the pilgrimage, men often develop a rash along their inner thighs. This occurs as a result of friction between the thighs while walking. In order to prevent and even treat the rash should it have started, it is recommended to apply infant petroleum jelly on the inner aspect of the thighs. This will help in reducing friction in the area when one walks in a state of ihram.
For Ladies Only
Where appropriate, women should contact their family doctor well in advance to prescribe the necessary medication to avoid menstruation during the trip.
Diarrhea and Upset Stomach
As with all journeys there is always the chance of getting Travelers Diarrhea. Most often this is caused by contaminated food and water. The best way to prevent this is with Dukoral vaccination.
Antibiotics and medications such as Imodium can be used to treat it but prevention with Dukoral is better. It may also be a good idea to take along packets of Gastrolyte to protect from dehydration. Mixed directly with cold bottled water, it will serve to replenish fluids.
You may also want to purchase health insurance for your journey. Although the Saudi government has set up free medical clinics, a Hajji may encounter illness during layovers in countries throughout Europe and Asia. Currently, if you become ill while travelling outside Canada, OHIP will pay only up to a maximum of $400 (Canadian) per day. Those who wear a medic alert bracelet should remember to bring that along in case of emergency. Finally, if carrying syringes or needles be sure to carry a physician’s letter documenting their medical necessity.
Packing Check List
Things to include in a first-aid kit for traveling
- Your prescription medicines preferably in their original containers. Take double the quantity you will need and place them in two separate places in case one set is lost
- Imodium, Gravol, Gastrolyte, Zantac. No Pepto Bismol
- (Tylenol ©) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
- Antihistamines for allergies. Reactine or Claritin or Aerius
- Antibiotic ointment (Polysporin ©) and adhesive bandages for cuts and scrapes
- Non-perfumed lotion to protect from rash – including Petroleum Jelly
- Non-perfumed hand sanitizer (Purell ©) for use prior to eating and after using the washroom
Over the counter vaginal yeast treatment ( for ladies only)