Healthy Travelling Tips For Umrah & Hajj

During Hajj or Umrah, pilgrims experience numerous events, meeting and mixing with a huge number of people and are constantly on the move from one place to another. Because of this constant journey, pilgrims are advised to pay extra attention to the condition of their health and not ignore what may, at first, appear to be insignificant symptoms. Here are the most common diseases in the Hajj or Umrah season:

  1. Cold and Flu:

It is caused by various viruses. Prevention is possible by avoiding a sudden change in temperature, direct exposure to air-conditioners, sneezing and coughing in close proximity to others, throwing used handkerchiefs in inappropriate places, and avoiding touching infected people as much as possible. Consult a doctor as soon as symptoms like fever, body ache, sneezing etc appear.

  1. Inflammation of the upper respiratory tract:

This inflammation occurs due to either lack of personal hygiene or infection by microorganisms. Nevertheless, preventive measures such as avoiding direct contact with infected people must be applied with greater strictness. This causes coughing, breathing difficulties like asthma. In severe but rare cases, secondary infections like pneumonia could occur, which is more serious and may need hospitalisation.

  1. Inflammation of the stomach and intestines:

The reasons behind this type of inflammation are contaminated food, and infection by parasitic, viral or bacterial microorganisms. Its symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pains, frequent diarrhoea and in some cases a headache and high temperature. Prevention entails taking care of both general and personal hygiene: washing hands frequently, washing fruits and vegetables, avoiding eating undercooked foods which could be contaminated, or consuming milk and dairy products without verifying the degree of sterilization and the date of expiry as well as having food and drinks in unclean or pre-used containers. One should also use clean water from its main sources which have been supervised by health authorities.

  1. Rash:

This occurs as a result of excessive sweating and constant friction of the skin folds. This causes rash and redness of the skin, particularly for those who are overweight. This mostly occurs between the thighs, underarms and under the breasts in women. Prevention method focuses on trying to lessen sweating and friction by avoiding walking for long distances in the heat as much as possible, wearing loose and light clothing to prevent friction and using cold water to wash the area exposed to friction. Treatment includes the use of prescription drugs and medicated creams to treat the rash.

  1. Heel fissures:

Heel fissures is a result of continuous walking in sandals with the heels uncovered and exposed to dust. This leads to dryness of the skin which causes the skin to crack. Prevention entails washing and keeping the feet clean, wearing socks to reduce exposure to dust, stepping with the whole foot on the ground so that the pressure is spread out evenly throughout the feet. Using a moisturizing cream will keep the feet hydrated and prevent cracking.

  1. Heatstroke:

The main reason behind this is exposure to direct heat and sunlight. Symptoms usually start with simple exhaustion, then comes the stage of heat fatigue, which occurs in most cases of heatstroke. This could be accompanied by a headache, weakness, dizziness, nausea, lack of appetite and sometimes a tendency to lose consciousness. The most serious condition is accompanied by fever or hyperthermia. Symptoms start due to a disturbance in the mechanism of sweating which is a result of a malfunctioning heat regulatory system. Therefore, the patient may feel a headache, dizziness, fainting and abdominal pain, and then lose consciousness. A pilgrim can prevent this by avoiding exposure to intense heat as much as possible, using umbrellas, tents and barriers to prevent direct exposure to the sun, drinking water and fluids, in order to replace the minerals and electrolytes lost by sweating. Immediate treatment is required as soon as the symptoms of heatstroke occur.

General travelling tips for Hajj and Umrah:

  1. Hygiene
  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water or hand disinfectants, particularly before eating or preparing food and after using the toilet.
  • Avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes with unwashed hands when out in public.
  • Use a paper handkerchief in front of your mouth to protect others when you cough or sneeze. Dispose after use and then wash your hands.
  • A cough or sneeze onto your elbow if no handkerchief is available.
  • Avoid direct contact with infected people (with symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, vomiting or diarrhoea) and their possessions.
  1. Food and Water
  • Use caution when eating at food stands. Avoid meat that is not thoroughly cooked, or unpasteurized milk (particularly camel milk).
  • Drink bottled water.
  • Make sure that fruits and vegetables are thoroughly washed with clean water before consumption.
  • Only sealed/canned food or food in small packages available for inspection can be brought into Saudi Arabia.
  1. Heat stroke prevention
  • Drink enough liquids (water, juices, etc.) regularly.
  • Avoid exposure to the sun for long periods, and use an umbrella when necessary. Light coloured umbrellas are recommended.
  • Avoid making an excessive effort and have sufficient sleep/rest after performing each of the Hajj rituals to restore your energy.
  • Loose, light coloured clothes are recommended. Do not use thick/ heavy clothing.

Hajj and Umrah Essentials:

All pilgrims should aim to be fit for Hajj or Umrah, the pilgrimage can be difficult for even the fittest individual. Keeping active, improving mobility and exercising appropriately is recommended.  Some travellers may benefit from a general health check-up with their doctors prior to departure to optimise their health, particularly the elderly, those with underlying health problems or during pregnancy.  Female pilgrims may wish to delay menstruation during Hajj and this should be discussed well in advance with pharmacists or doctors who may prescribe hormonal therapy.

Pilgrims taking regular medication should review their prescription with their doctors and ensure that they have sufficient medicines to cover the trip. A letter from the doctor with details of current medication may be useful for immigration purposes and all medicines should be kept in their original packaging and carried in the hand luggage with a printed copy of the prescription. Pilgrims may need to bring other medications as preparation to treat or prevent some common diseases (as discussed earlier) during Hajj or Umrah.