Umrah performers with health issues need to take care |
Arab News - 02 August, 2012
Umrah performers and visitors to the holy sites need some health tips to perform the Islamic rituals safely and stay healthy. Considering the enormous number of worshippers who come to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, it is no surprise that some among them are already sick, while the others wish to stay healthy.
Arab News met prominent Saudi physician Saud Al-Sifri, who is consultant of medicine and endocrinology and chairman of the endocrinology department at the Al-Hada Hospital in Taif.
For the majority of people who want to perform Umrah, the pilgrimage is a matter of intention, wearing Umrah cloths, and going ahead to Makkah. However, Umrah pilgrims need to take some measures to prevent health problems. Arab News takes its readers on a journey from the start — before doing the Umrah — until returning home.
According to Dr. Al-Sifri, “Performing Umrah and visiting the holy mosque in Madinah is a special journey, which requires full readiness. Its difficulty depends on the individual — whether he is young and healthy or with a chronic disease such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiac disease, or bronchial asthma.”
He added: “For healthy individuals, there are no special requirements before performing Umrah, except taking a few over-the-counter medications like painkillers and antihistamines for a common cold. Those with chronic diseases need to visit their medical team while planning the journey, and they should get fully examined and carry with them a medical report of their current status. They need to get the necessary vaccinations, like influenza and meningococcal vaccines, ahead of time – at least two weeks before the Umrah. Another important point is to take enough supply of their medications and arrange a proper storage to avoid exposure of the medications to excessive heat and direct sunlight.”
Along with travel arrangements,” the Al-Sifri continued, “certain food measures should be arranged. In general, healthy food is always advisable, but during these few days I advise to avoid taking salads and green leafy vegetables. Always avoid having food that is uncooked or left open at crowded places. Make sure to wash fruits and vegetables carefully,” the doctor said.
“During Umrah, pilgrims should not wear masks, except if special precautions need to be taken during an epidemic respiratory viral illness, which is not the case nowadays. If someone has to wear a mask, it should be a special one, like N-95, as ordinary masks lose their value after 10 minutes of wearing them,” he declared.
Babies and children should be accompanied by their parents at all times, and since we do not have nurseries in the holy sites, some advice has to be followed.
Al-Sifri explained: “This journey is exhausting for adults, so it is even more for children. For small babies and elderly with multiple medical problems, it is much better to do Umrah at ease and avoid the rush hours and overcrowded areas, especially during Ramadan.”
The doctor advised patients of chronic diseases to learn about their diseases and medicines.
“People with chronic diseases like diabetes should wear special socks or clean, light shoes to avoid feet injuries and frictions, since they have a decreased sense of pain. For people with bronchial asthma and cardiac disease, it is much better to do Sa’yie (the seven rounds of walking and jogging between Safa and Marwa mountains) in a wheelchair to avoid exacerbation of their disease,” he declared.
“While performing Umrah, people lose a lot of fluids, which might put them at risk of dehydration. The best way to avoid this is to drink plenty of non-caloric fluids like water. A moderate amount of juices is needed to avoid exhaustion and dehydration, but it is better to decrease the consumption of tea and coffee during Umrah, because they are diuretics.”
“As concerns transportation, air-conditioned buses are much better for people with chronic illnesses. Always try to avoid the smokes, gases and fumes from cars, as it leads to exacerbation of bronchial asthma and chest infections,” Al-Sifri said.
He also advised to drinks water in clean cups, and not in used ones. “Dates are a good source of energy and a rich, complete meal, but avoid those staffed with nuts or chocolates, as they are high in calories and full of saturated fat.
“People with diabetes should carry enough supply of their medications and a medical report and glucometer to measure their blood sugars at least three to four times daily.
Due to the extraordinary physical activity they do while performing Umrah, candy and sugars must be with them at all times to avoid sudden unexpected hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). They should wear a bracelet that identifies them as diabetics and take their medications on time.”
The doctor said that after finishing Umrah, people should avoid shaving their hair with used instruments, and preferably bring their own disposable shaving kit to avoid contamination and chances of having a transmitted disease.
“Once back home, I advise people to take some time to rest and visit their medical team if they notice any symptoms like flue or fever,” he advised.
“Umrah is not only a physical, but also a spiritual exercise that has many lasting benefits. Islam encourages Muslims to ensure that they are mindful of their health.”