Preparation for Hajj and Umrah is vital for a safe and enjoyable pilgrimage. There are many different health risks and hazards that pilgrims are exposed to and the majority cannot be prevented by vaccination!
Here are Nomad’s top travel tips for a safe and healthy pilgrimage-
1. Get your Meningitis ACWY Vaccine and certificate and other vaccines.
Meningitis is a serious respiratory infection. Several outbreaks following the Hajj have led to the compulsory vaccination of all pilgrims aged 2 years and older. Proof of vaccination against Meningitis ACWY is required in order to obtain visa entry into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Nomad are working in partnership with the Muslim Council of Britain and offer the meningitis vaccine and certificate to all pilgrims travelling for Hajj and Umrah. Vaccination should be issued at least 10 days but not more than 3 years before arrival.
Book Now for vaccinations for Hajj – click here.
2. Protect yourself against Coronavirus MERS –CoV
Middle East respiratory syndrome Coronovirus (MERS –CoV) can cause serious respiratory illness and death in ‘up to’ 50% of people. The risk of infection in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is high and cases are reported on a daily basis. There is no vaccination to protect against infection and no specific treatment. Many cases of infection have occurred from human to human transmission contracted through close respiratory contact. This infection is a real risk as you will be in crowded areas a lot of the time, so it is essential you comply with the following health guidelines as advised by the Ministry of Health:
> Prevention- Wash hands with soap and water – use a hand sanitiser when soap and water are not available.
> Cover nose and mouth with a disposable tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw it away in the bin after.
> Wear a mask in crowded areas.
> Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with your hands.
> Avoid personal contact such as sharing cups, utensils and other personal belongings. Avoid kissing.
> As MERS –CoV can be spread by infected camels – avoid any contact and do not eat undercooked camel meat and do not drink camel milk
Symptoms of MERS –CoV include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Travellers with symptoms or returning with symptoms should seek urgent medical advice.
3. Have a health check up
If you have any pre-existing medical conditions visit your GP to ensure that you are well enough to travel. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Ministry of Health recommend that for their own safety the following persons postpone Hajj and Umrah rituals this year:
Elderly, pregnant women, children, persons with chronic diseases such as heart, kidney, respiratory, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes and immune deficiency.
4. Be prepared to prevent and manage Travellers’ diarrhoea
Diarrhoeal illness is common during Hajj/Umrah. To reduce the risk of diarrhoea and dehydration you should avoid uncooked meats, raw fruits and salads. Drink plenty of bottled or boiled water. Avoid ice in drinks. It is important to maintain good hand hygiene after using the toilet and before handling food. Carry a hand sanitiser. Avoid sharing bottles and cups and use your own cup to drink Zam Zam water in the Haram. Diarrhoea relief medication should be carried and include loperamide and rehydration sachets. An antibiotic for self- treatment should be considered.
5. Take a Hajj/Umrah medical kit.
It is important that you carry a personal medical kit. This should be with you at all times. Minor juries and illnesses are relatively common and you should he prepared to manage these. Your medical kit should include pain killers, dressings and plasters, antiseptic, antifungal cream, diarrhoea relief medication, antihistamines, insect repellent, sun cream, face masks and hand sanitiser.
6. Protect yourself from the Sun
The high temperatures in Saudi Arabia during the day can put you at risk of dehydration, heat exhaustion and sunburn. Take frequent rest breaks, seek shade and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Wear a high factor sun cream (no less than SPF 15) on exposed skin and reapply frequently to prevent sunburn Take an umbrella to protect you from the sun and provide shade and wear protective sunglasses. Try to perform some rituals in the evening to avoid the stresses of the day time sun.
7. Look after your feet
During Hajj and Umrah you will be walking long distances and standing for long periods. Injuries and infections to feet such as blisters and fungal infections are common. To prevent these, wear comfortable and well fitted walking shoes and keep feet clean and dry. Treat any injuries or infections promptly. Beware of walking barefoot on hot marble and sand as this may burn the feet.
8. Accidents and Staying safe
During Hajj/ Umrah, you may have to walk close to or through traffic and busy roads. Accidents with vehicles are a hazard. Pushing in large crowds around the stoning rites and other activities can cause people to fall and become crushed or trampled on. Avoid peak times and overcrowded areas. Ensure that you have adequate travel health insurance. Carry copy of any prescription drugs and GP details as they may be required if emergency care is needed.
Men who wish to shave their heads during Hajj should take their own razor for personal use and visit licenced and officially designated barbers. Blood borne infections such as Hepatitis B and HIV are a risk and can be transmitted through unclean blades.
Take care with personal possessions. Never leave luggage unattended. Always clearly label your luggage showing your name, passport number, flight number, hotel name and contact phone number.
9. Keep physically fit
During Hajj/ Umrah you will be walking great distances and performing daily rituals in hot weather. This is physically demanding. it is important that you keep physically active and improving physical fitness by exercising regularly before departure.