Important and practical health information for Hajj.
by Dr.M A
As-salaam u alaikum wa rahmatullaahi wabarakaatu
Alhumdulillah the time for Hajj has arrived, and blessed are those who have been invited to be the guest of Allah swt. The temperatures are high during this time of year, average day temperature being 43 degrees Celsius. Day of Arafat during Hajj 1437 (2015) was approximately 45 degrees Celsius and thus is it important to manage your health and well-being within this context.
The prime focus is to perform the rights of Hajj with sincerity and vigor and feeling strong assists us with this.
*please note that the following advice is for those who DO NOT suffer from chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension etc. Please consult your doctor before departure to ask for advice regarding your medication*
Please find below a few practical tips for your good health during Hajj :
1. Staying hydrated is vital! This cannot be stressed enough! The high temperatures and long walks lead to increased perspiration, and this means you have to replenish fluids. A good tip is to sip water regularly and consistently throughout the day. Don’t go hours without drinking!
2. With the increased heat, our blood pressure drops. So we need to know how to keep the BP stable and avoid the dizzy feeling we sometimes get.
If you are prone to feeling weak or have a low blood pressure a good suggestion is to:
– add some salt to zamzam/water
– dilute some juice and add a sprinkle of salt (orange juice is good for this)
– drink a rehydrate solution.
Remember when the body is dehydrated, the immunity drops and makes us more susceptible to other illnesses!
3. A suggestion is to always have an empty bottle (a filled one is better but in case it’s too heavy to carry, you can fill at the coolers on the side of the road), some rehydrate solution sachets and a few sachets of salt and sugar (like you get from a takeaway). For people with chronic low blood pressure, a small amount of rough salt is handy!
4. Good snack options to carry : salted nuts, biltong, small packet of chips (available abundantly in Mina) , few sweets for needed glucose boost and even some salty choria!
5. As many pilgrims want to avoid using the toilet too frequently, they minimize their fluid and food intake. This is a double edged sword and leads to reduced energy levels. We then have reduced vigor and ability to perform the vital acts of worship. A suggestion would be to sip the above mentioned fluids throughout the day, instead of gulping down large amounts every few hours. Also avoid eating heavy meals, as this overworks the digestive system. Rather snack intermittently on healthy foods that sustain energy levels.
6. The heat causes vasodilation. What is that? It’s when blood vessels dilate to increase flow to the skin, and thus cool the body. This also lowers your blood pressure, which causes you to feel weak / dizzy and faint! How to combat this?
– wear cool breathable cotton clothing that encourages air circulation. Tight fitting apparel doesn’t allow the skin to cool as quickly.
– Regularly make wudhu or wash your hands, feet and face. The evaporation of water from the skin is a natural cooling mechanism.
– Use a spray fan, adding cold water to the bottle, or ice cubes. This is very handy when walking and you need to cool down. Note, when resting , remove your socks , spray feet with water and cool down.
– An umbrella can help during the midday walking to avoid overheating from the direct sunlight.
– Carry a face cloth that you can drench with cold water and wipe your neck / upper arms etc.
– Try to sit near a fan or cooler. Cooling tip: wetting your face, hands, head / or spray water from your spray bottle while being directly in front of the fan. You will feel like its an air conditioner on your skin!
– For ladies, use ice cubes in a mini plastic packet (like a bank packet) and use against your skin.
7. What to do when you feel dizzy/faint or someone next to you is?
– The dizzy individual must lie down. Yes it is difficult to do so when you are in a crowd, and walking in the group. However first inform your spouse / family / friend that is with you so that they can assist/hold you. Fainting amidst the crowd can be dangerous as you can be trampled on. You also run the risk of hurting yourself! Best to avoid a head or back injury during the most important days of your life!
– Go to the side of the road, lay down your mat and lie down on it. Preferably on your right side. Try to raise your legs above the level of your heart (can use a backpack, ensure no Quraan or kitaabs in bag). Why do you do this? This position encourages blood flow back to the heart, and then onward to the brain. Which then helps the dizziness to go away.
– choose a spot that’s relatively uncrowded as air circulation helps cool the skin.
– loosen any tight clothing, example a belt or tight head cap. Removing the hijab in a public space isn’t an option so rather loosen the under cap and have hijab draped modestly. One can wet the cap and hijab with water to help cool the head and face.
– have someone fan you with whatever is available (we used other people’s mats) . The quicker the body cools, the quicker the dizziness goes away. If you have a spray fan, all the better!
-slowly sip the following fluids : rehydrate solution, a solution of 500 mls water with 4 tsp sugar and ¼ tsp salt, some juice with added salt, or even dilute cool drink with salt. Remember it’s not only sugar that needs to be replaced, the salt is more important!
– lie down for a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes. This is time needed for blood pressure to stabilize. Rushing this will often lead to dizzy feeling throughout the journey.
8. If after 20 minutes you are still dizzy, call the authorities for assistance. A wheelchair can be brought for the individual. Be patient as this sometimes takes time.
9. If you are helping someone who has fainted, and they do not regain conciousness within a few minutes, please call for assistance. If the person who fainted suffers from other chronic illnesses, don’t wait. Call for assistance immediately.
10. During your time in Mina, the tent can get hot and sticky. Sometimes the fans don’t work .If your fellow haajees express their weakness or dizziness, kindly encourage them to sip a rehydrate solution as this can avoid any further issues. Prevention is better than cure! A readily available drink: can of cool drink, add some water, and salt.
11. MashaAllah the SAHUC medical team is exceptionally skilled and readily available to assist the pilgrims. There is sometimes a line to wait, or they are not open due to prayer times. Try to remember the above advice while waiting patiently.
12. Some medication makes you feel dizzy! For example , antihistamines. Know what you are taking and the effects of it by discussing with your GP prior to departure.
13. In the event that you have the flu, consult a doctor for advice. Sometimes, merely replenishing fluids and having a few hours rest can be the best medicine!
14. A small note for the women: Many women take hormonal pills to control their cycle. Please consult a learned aalim/aalima in your group should you have breakthrough bleeding or spotting, as this could be considered your menstrual period. You would rather know what the ruling is, and ensure an acceptable Hajj.
May Allah swt accept the Hajj of all those visiting His beautiful house! Ameen
Please remember the Ummah in your valuable prayers.
Written Dr M.A Mbbch(Wits) a registered medical practitioner who assisted many hujjaj last year with issues during the 5 days especially dehydration.