Keys to boosting stamina and staying healthy during hajj

Because of the crowds, mass gatherings such as hajj are associated with a number health risks

Racha Adib
Racha Adib - Special to Al Arabiya English
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The annual hajj pilgrimage to Makkah is among the largest gatherings in the world. Each year, millions of Muslims from around the world make the pilgrimage.

Because of the crowds, mass gatherings such as hajj are associated with a number health risks. If you have traveled to hajj this year, follow the below recommendations to help keep you safe and healthy.

Throughout hajj, the pilgrim loses substantial amounts of liquids through perspiration or sweat. A hot climate and physical activity increase your need for water. To maintain adequate hydration, pace yourself when walking and drink plenty of fluids to compensate the fluids lost. Water, essentially bottled water, is always the best form of fluid so drink it abundantly. Other fluids such as juice, milk, tea and sodas also count.

Moderation in consuming food during hajj season ‎is one of the issues to which every pilgrim should pay special attention. Moderation in consuming food is recommended in order not to overburden the stomach and as a result cause indigestion and gases. But don’t just eat in moderation, make better food choices. Choose whole grain bread and oats, whole fruits, raw and steamed vegetables, fish, skinless chicken, and lean meat, low fat dairy and good fats such as raw nuts and olive oil.

During the hajj season, many street vendors begin to sell food to keep up with the increased demand for food. Beware of food facilities that may not comply with food safety standards. While eating food from street vendors is convenient you may face the risk of traveler’s diarrhea. Take a look at the vendor before ordering. Does it look clean and well kept? Are the food handlers following basic hygiene? Is the vendor busy? The fewer the customers, the longer the food will be sitting before being served. When ordering, make sure that meats are cooked thoroughly, fruits and vegetables are cleaned and no ice is added to your drinks as that might contaminate the water.

If you are unsure whether a food is safe, don't eat it. If it tastes wrong, if cooked chicken is still a little pink, or if you suspect the food has been kept out for more than two hours don’t take the risk. You’ll only be exposing yourself to food poisoning caused by bacterial growth. Food poisoning can lead to diarrhea, abdominal cramps and feelings of weakness. Opt for low risk foods such as bread, rice, potatoes, canned food and smoked meats and packaged food.

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. Keeping hands clean helps prevent sickness and germs from spreading. In all circumstances, keep your hands away from three key spots on your body - your eyes, nose and mouth. These are all easy ways of spreading an infection to your body.

To further reduce risk of infection, pilgrims should also avoid kissing on the cheek, hugging, or shaking hands when greeting others. These activities are routes for catching or transmitting infections. A pat on the back will have to do! If you are sick, stay away from other people. Many diseases are spread through sneezes and coughs. When you sneeze or cough, the germs can travel to the person next to you! Cover your mouth and nose to prevent the spread of infection to others. Keep tissues handy. Be sure to throw away used tissues and then clean your hands.

Sleep is crucial for recovery from a physically demanding journey. In addition to getting sufficient overnight sleep, resting periods are recommended before and after performing rituals during hajj to freshen up your body. Sleep is important and plays a vital role in good health and well-being. Getting sufficient quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.

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