Hajj in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic
A quick checklist of what to bring, what to watch out for, and important actions for the pilgrimage.
Muslims are performing Hajj this year for the second time in a row under the COVID-19 pandemic.
The nature of Hajj requires the pilgrim to adhere to many preventive precautions to preserve his health. These precautions have intensified in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have collected the most important medical advice provided by John Hopkins Aramco Healthcare (JHAH) experts for pilgrims this year:
Preventive precautions for performing Hajj during the COVID-19 pandemic
Although only people who received the COVID-19 vaccine can perform Hajj this year, pilgrims should continue to follow the below precautions:
● Wear a mask in public places
● Wash hands properly using soap and water for 40-60 seconds, or clean hands using hand sanitizer for 20-30 seconds
● Adhering to social distancing measures by leaving a safe distance between you and others.
Prevention of heat-related illness
Hajj this year coincides with the summer season. Accordingly, pilgrims must be mindful of their protection from heat-related illnesses. These inlcude heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. They occur when the body is exposed to high temperatures or the sun for a prolonged period of time.
Symptoms of heat illness range from skin irritation in cases of skin rash, painful cramps, and flushed moist skin in cases of heat cramps to vomiting, headaches, fatigue, weakness, fever, rapid heart rate, confusion, and seizures in cases of heatstroke.
Ignoring early heat illness signs may lead to developing heatstroke. Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate emergency. To avoid heat-related illness, one should:
• Avoid extensive exposure to the sun between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
• Make sure to drink adequate amounts of water and fluids
• Avoid performing Tawaf and Sa`y during the noontime
• If you are traveling in your car, allow time for it to cool-down before driving
• Make sure to use an umbrella in case you need to go out at noon.
Sun exposure for long periods causes sunburns. Symptoms of sunburns include but are not limited to redness, swelling of the skin, pain, blisters, fever, chills, weakness, and faintness. When exposed to severe sunburns, the person should seek immediate medical help. To avoid sunburns, try the following:
• Avoid excessive exposure to the sun between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
• Apply sunscreen
• Use an umbrella to protect your skin from sun rays.
Foot problems during Hajj
Foot problems are a common concern during Hajj. Pilgrims may need to walk for long distances during the performance of the Hajj rituals. Friction resulting from walking may cause foot blisters, and the situation may worsen if you wear the wrong shoes.
How can you avoid foot injuries and complications during Hajj? And how can you choose the right shoes to prevent or minimize foot problems?
● Choose the appropriate size shoes so that they are not narrow or wide to avoid friction with the skin and the accumulation of fluids under the upper skin layer
● Ensure that the shoe protects the foot from the front and back, and avoid open toe shoes
● Avoid shoes with a flat design and those made of poor materials, as this year’s Hajj coincides with the summer season, which increases the chance of getting foot blisters
● Avoid standing and walking for long hours and use transportation instead of walking
● Avoid walking barefoot
● Keep your feet clean and dry.
Why is dehydration one of the most common health problems during the Hajj season?
The nature of the Hajj calls for long walks or prolonged exposure to the sun. The pilgrim may also be distracted while performing the rites of Hajj from drinking enough water.
How to prevent dehydration?
You can avoid dehydration by drinking enough fluids. The recommended amount of water that the body needs is equivalent to eight glasses of water per day. It is advised to increase this amount in case of fluid loss through sweating or in the event of diarrhea and vomiting.
How to avoid digestive problems?
● Avoid foods prepared under unhygienic conditions
● Follow your diet plan and eat regularly to avoid stomach upset due to changed eating habits
● When you have diarrhea, drink plenty of fluids, rest, continue using your medications and avoid going out in the sun to prevent dehydration
● Follow good personal hygiene; always wash your hands before and after eating, after using the restroom and after handling things
● Boost your energy by eating healthy food. Fruits and vegetables are some of the most essential sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients that support the immune system. So be sure to eat them according to your daily diet plan.
What to take with you?
When you prepare your bag for Hajj in advance, you need to make sure the following necessary items are packed:
(Please note that this list only covers basic necessities, as Hajj this year is limited to people who do not suffer from chronic diseases.)
● Hand sanitizer
● A sufficient number of masks so you can change them periodically
● Pain reliever and antipyretic
● Analgesic creams for muscle injury
● Sunblock cream
● Skin moisturizer to prevent skin from drying out
● Personal care items such as scissors and nail clippers
Get the 2021 Hajj vaccination at JHAH
Find out more about JHAH’s Meningococcal Immunization Program, available at JHAH until Thursday, July 15.