Planning Umrah? Tips to prevent contracting infections
Though Umrah, a pilgrimage to Mecca, could be performed anytime of the year, the Holy Month of Ramadan is a preferred month for most pilgrims. This increased influx of travellers to Mecca could increase the chances of contracting infectious diseases, especially the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) that has a high incidence in the region.
According to Dr. Saad Al Nuaimi, Senior Consultant in Emergency Medicine at HMC, some of the common respiratory illnesses contracted during Umrah are sinuses, throat, airways, and lung infections, “as they spread rapidly among crowds”.
Here are a few of his recommendations to stay safe from infections:
- Use tissue paper when coughing or sneezing, and ensure they are disposed carefully.
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water.
- Avoid hand contact with the eyes, nose and mouth as much as possible.
- Don’t neglect breathing difficulties, seek urgent medical advice.
- Avoid direct contact with people who show symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, runny nose, vomiting and diarrhea.
- Carry medical/first aid kits, which contain plasters, dressings, and painkillers in case of emergency.
- Carry copies of prescriptions, as well as a doctor’s letter that describes your medical history in detail.
- For men shaving their heads after the completion of Umrah, make sure the blades are clean, and never share blades. This could transmit blood-borne viruses, such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Human Immuno-deficiency virus (HIV).
Apart from viral infections, pilgrims are also most likely to face heat-related illness, such as severe sunburn, dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. For this, Dr. Al Nuaimi advises:
- Drink plenty of clean water, preferably bottled or boiled and cooled water regularly. Keep yourself hydrated.
- Apply high protection sunscreen, at least SPF 15 when going outdoors.
- Carry umbrellas to avoid direct sunlight.
Before planning your trip, it is imperative to consult a health care provider who will determine if you are eligible for travel, the WHO has recommended. Dr. Al Nuaimi adds, “Certain people may postpone their pilgrimage for their own safety. This includes people aged above 65 years, pregnant women and children under the age of 12 years, or anyone with chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart, kidney, or with respiratory problems or immune deficiency.”
Another alternative is to avoid travelling during peak times such as Ramadan, when the number of people is significantly higher.
[Photo courtesy: Camera Eye via Flickr, image has been cropped]