Stay fit during HAJJ

Pilgrims, intending to perform Hajj, are supposed to follow a variety of health tips
File Photo
File Photo

Hajj is an essential part of Muslim's faith and all pilgrimsshould aim to be fit throughout this journey. Although  medical missions of respective countries takecare of pilgrims health problems Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also  provides free healthcare services to allpilgrims' at all holy sites round the clock . It  is highly recommended, a general health check-upshould  be done for  risk stratification, medication adjustmentsbefore traveling.  To stay fit  during this journey should actually  begin atleast two to three months before the actual date of departure as during thisjourney your chronic or subclinical health problems  may get precipitated or  unmasked  deprive or delay  a pilgrim from actually  performing certain Hajj rituals  resulting in great inconvenience  to other group members  and organizers.  Following health tips for commonlyencountered health problems during Hajj can  help a great deal  but in no way replacement for seeking properMedical consultation or following advisory on health recommendations for visitors traveling to SaudiArabia for the purposes of  Hajj. Personssuffering from chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart,kidney, respiratory, musculoskeletal (spinal, arthritis) etc., disorders shouldget thorough  check up done by theirtreating doctors to follow  theirinstructions on medications and life style modifications during this journey.Vaccinations not limited to meningitis differ from region to region should befollowed as per  Haj committeeinstructions. Pilgrims are required to submit a valid certificate indicatingthat prophylaxis was applied in accordance with methods recommended by WHO atleast few weeks before travel. Some people only obtain certificates and skipactual vaccination ,which is not  a goodpractice and can prove fatal. Due to the nature of physical activity, change indietary habits sometimes simple surgically correctable  problems like Hernia, piles if not  tackled appropriately before departure could pose greater problems later during Haj journey  so let  your doctor assess you  at least4-6 weeks before whether any  sort ofintervention is needed or not  to  perform hassle free Hajj.If your doctor feelsthe problem  is of trivial in nature, or  due to time constraint can't be operated  now  people  with hernia should avoid  excessive bending, lifting  heavy weight, cough etc or  may  usetruss after consultation with your Doctor. In case pilgrim at any stage  of journey experiences  sever  pain or prominence at  hernia site he or she should  take rest immediately, preferably liedown  restrict oral intake, and try toseek urgent medical attention. People suffering from piles should follow strictdietary regulation in addition to prescribed medicines. Retention of urineduring hajj rituals can pose a problem for elderly people suffering from prostatic enlargement symptoms  ifnot treated properly one  may have topray or complete  Hajj rituals withcatheter, seek Urologist advice before travel. Pain /colic due to stones in,Gall bladder, kidney and ureter are very painful conditions and can get   precipitated, take care about  adequate hydration, diet and  keep pain killers handy. Symptomatic gallbladder diseases in the laparoscopic era are easy to tackle before travel whilepeople with asymptomatic  stones maytravel with some dietary advices  toprevent an attack  during the journey.Sisters who want to delay their periods to complete hajj rituals should consultgynecologists for usage of such medication without harmful side effects. BewareKSA pharmacopeia differs from ours in many respects, does not allow manymedications  or combinations of medicineused here and  without  local authorized prescription's pharmacy maynot give you medicines so you should carry enough stock to cover the durationof journey along with Medical prescription preferably in generic names and  few common medicines  like antidiarrheal,antiemetics,antipyretics,  carrying medication morethan required amount  for personal usemay not be allowed at customs and drug trafficking is a serious offense in theKingdom  carries capital punishment.Since temperature at various holy sites differ follow manufacturer'sinstructions to store your medications especially hormones like  Insulin etc. Those on dialysis should carrymedical report with latest serology status at least for Hepatitis B, C and HIVto have hemo-dialysis on infection free machines provided to Haj pilgrims freeof cost at all Holy cities. People with diabetes should be extra cautious ofmany health hazards during the Hajj, including but not limited to the 'killertriad': hypoglycemia, foot injury and infections, and should  take care not to walk bare foot on hot  roads due to impaired sensation of feet.

Hajis with acid dyspepsia problems should take antiulcer medications regularly and avoid spicyor  fast food so as not to suffer from the complications of disease. Upperrespiratory tract infection (Cough,fever, sore throat ,aches and pains  )during Hajj pilgrimage due to influenzavirus is a common occurrence, face-masks are recommended at crowded andcongested places, use disposable tissues when coughing or sneezing and disposeof used tissues in a wastebasket. Avoid close contact with people who appearill and avoid sharing their personal belongings. Vaccination against seasonalinfluenza is good preventive measure particularly important for pregnant women,children under 5 years, the elderly, individuals with chronic medical andimmunosuppressive conditions.  Allpilgrims are advised to  wash hands withsoap and water or a disinfectant, especially after coughing and sneezing,  after using toilets, before handling andconsuming food. Don't spit on the floor. It is a hazardous source of infectiontransmission, avoid  unnecessary exposureto sun or exerting strenuous physical muscle activity in hot weather, drink lotof water and use umbrella so as not to suffer from heat exhaustion symptoms.Food should be kept at safe temperature fresh vegetables and fruit  thoroughly cleaned  and washed before eating. Wearing  health information strap (or the informationcard),  showing disease, the kind oftreatment, contact information is good practice and one may inform fellow pilgrims in group about your disease andproper medications, so that they can help you when necessity arises. Moreover,we request all pilgrims to read and follow the health advisory and take all theprecautions announced through the Hajj missions by Ministry Of Health and Hajjof Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, adhere to their treating  doctor's instructions on life stylemodifications, such as following a certain physical activities  and dietary regulations. The address, contact information of the Haj healthmission  or your tour operator   should be readily available with every pilgrim  for  contact if you have any questions or healthissues . Wishing you healthy and acceptable Hajj.

(Dr Fiaz Fazili is a Consultant Surgeon and  Hospital policy planner   for Quality Improvement)

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