Top tips to stay healthy during the Hajj pilgrimage

Pilgrims should also avoid kissing on the cheek, hugging or shaking hands

Racha Adib
Racha Adib - Special to Al Arabiya English
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The Hajj pilgrimage is undertaken by millions of Muslims every year and staying healthy and strong during the physically demanding journey is crucial.

Maintaining energy and bodily strength during Hajj necessitates that certain safety precautions be taken. After all, the pilgrim would most likely not want to be consumed by thoughts of discomfort and stay kept away from his or her primary focus of worship.

Here are key tips on how to protect yourself from the three frequent health issues that pilgrims, or any person engaged in a physically demanding journey, may face: infections, food poisoning and heat strokes.

A common symptom pilgrims are prone is diarrhea, often caused by food poisoning. Food may be either undercooked or cooked properly but kept outside for hours in unsafe conditions. In either case, food is prone to bacterial growth, which can lead to diarrhea, abdominal cramps and feeling weak.

If something tastes wrong, if chicken is still red, or if you think food has been kept out for more than two hours, the motto to remember in this case is “when in doubt, throw it out.” You can resort to less risky food such as packaged cream cheese, bread, rice, potatoes, canned unopened food, and smoked meats.

If you do get diarrhea, adjusting your diet is recommended. Avoid all fiber containing food such as whole grains, beans, most fruits, and vegetables. If you’re lactose intolerant, stay away from dairy as well. Fatty or fried food can upset your stomach and worsen your diarrhea.

What can you eat? White bread, boiled potatoes, white pasta, boiled eggs, bananas, peeled apples, and grilled lean meats such as grilled fish or chicken breast.

In the wake of the recent Ebola and Coronavirus outbreaks, pilgrims are prone to infection. A leading cause of infection, however, is the influenza virus, which targets the upper respiratory tract and may lead to illnesses such as pneumonia. Several measures are recommended to prevent the infection.

Strict hygiene is the ultimate method of prevention during Hajj. Washing hands frequently, particularly before and after certain activities is especially important to remove germs and reduce the spread of illness. When should you wash your hands? Before and after eating food, before and after treating a wound, after using the toilet and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Keeping small bottles of sanitizers during Hajj is a good idea because washrooms may not always be readily available.

In all circumstances, keep your hands away from three key spots in your body: your eyes, your nose and your mouth. These are all easy routes that infection can reach your body.

Certain vitamins and minerals can play a role in strengthening your immunity, including the mineral Zinc. Some studies have found that zinc may help fight off infection while others have found no benefit at all. Where can you find zinc? Nuts, pumpkin seeds and chocolate are all practical sources of zinc that you can keep handy.

Although tempting, pilgrims should also avoid kissing on the cheek, hugging, or shaking hands when greeting others. These activities are other ways you can either catch or transmit infections. During Hajj, a pat on the back will have to do!

Drinking enough fluids coupled with pacing yourself during the pilgrimage helping maintain adequate hydration.

Water is always the best form of fluid, and you should drink it abundantly. Both hot weather and physical activity increase your needs for water, so ideally you should be aiming for 8-10 glasses of water per day.

Sun strokes are also very common, so it is necessary to avoid direct sunlight for long hours. If you experience symptoms of chills, headache, dizziness, and nausea, move away to a cool area and seek medical help.

Remember, don’t overexert yourself. Pace your walking and rest in the shade when needed.

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