December 9, 2022

‘Paracetamol, bandages, petroleum jelly’: British Muslim doctor shares advice for pilgrims embarking on Hajj

LONDON: A British Muslim doctor who has accompanied British groups on Hajj as a medical expert and guide at least 15 times has shared his advice for pilgrims intending to make the pilgrimage for the first time after the pandemic.

In a webinar hosted by the Council of British Hajjis, Dr Imran Zia, Clinical Director of Emergency Medicine at Barts Health NHS Trust, explained how pilgrims should prepare for summer temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius.

“Umbrellas are very useful, especially in the heat, and the temperature at the moment is likely to be between 40 and 45 degrees. We are not used to such high temperatures in the UK and I encourage you to wear umbrellas light colors and use sunscreen. Avoid going out in the afternoon if you can,” Zia told Arab News.

As the Hajj involves a lot of walking between holy sites in the scorching heat, Zia advised pilgrims to break in any shoes they plan to use.

“Please walk in the sandals you are going to take with you. Every year we see people buying a new pair of sandals, taking them to Saudi Arabia, and then getting blisters. You have to wear these sandals now.

“If you feel like the soles of your feet are going to give you trouble, I encourage you to buy some good quality insoles and stick them inside your sandal. You will find that it will give you immense relief. It’s like walking on air.

“If you have diabetes, I would advise against taking flip flops as they promote infection, skin damage, sweating and will likely cause you problems. So it’s best to get sandals with straps that you can secure,” the medical professional said.

Zia also addressed the notorious Hajj cough that many pilgrims catch due to the dry and dusty environment and the fact that people from all over the world have gathered in one place.

“With the Hajj cough, which a lot of people unfortunately get, the onset is quite quick. It comes on very suddenly and your temperature goes up and down. You will have a severe headache and it is quite severe. Having a sore throat is very common. It’s a dry cough and you’ll hurt like you’ve been hit by a bus,” Zia said.

“Unfortunately, there is no medicated tablet that I can recommend you take other than using simple measures such as paracetamol to keep the temperature down, lozenges to relieve sore throat, gargling with salt water and rest.”

He said the best way to avoid catching Hajj cough is to wear a face mask, keep your mouth covered and practice good hygiene.

“If you see someone coughing, keep your distance,” the doctor said.

He also stressed the importance for pilgrims to take an adequate amount of medication for those with existing health conditions.

“Take a lot of medicine. One thing I will say about medications is that you should pack them in your carry-on. Also bring some in your checked baggage. And if it’s a really important medicine that you don’t want to lose, also pack it with the person who comes with you, with a cover letter,” Zia said.

“Some drugs, especially for cancer or diabetes, are simply not available. Take a new prescription with you so that if you get sick people will know what medications you are taking. If you are suffering from a serious illness, I will always encourage you to take with you the name of your hospital consultant, the contact number of the hospital consultant or the secretary of his department and your hospital number.

He also advised people who usually wear contact lenses to avoid doing so during the pilgrimage and to carry a spare pair of glasses.

“I encourage you all to avoid contact lenses, if possible. You are likely to be awake for many hours in dusty environments and suffer from lack of sleep. The last thing you want to do is get an eye infection. And grab a spare pair of glasses,” Zia said.

Finally, the doctor shared his golden list of “Ps”:

List of prescriptions, of all prescribed medications

Patient details with phone numbers, especially if you have a persistent problem

Paracetamol will help reduce a temperature

Blister dressings

Petroleum jelly (unscented) will relieve chafing between the legs

Penicillin/antibiotic if you can get this medicine