Doctors provide tips on how to stay healthy during the Hajj pilgrimage

Doctors provide tips on how to stay healthy during the Hajj pilgrimage
A medical practitioner says pilgrims must be aware of their own medical history and should take precautions. (Huda Bashatah/AN)
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Updated 01 July 2023
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Doctors provide tips on how to stay healthy during the Hajj pilgrimage

Doctors provide tips on how to stay healthy during the Hajj pilgrimage
  • Health professionals urge visitors to be mindful of respiratory illnesses, food poisoning and heat stroke
  • While the WHO has declared the pandemic over, pilgrims should be aware COVID-19 is still circulating

DUBAI: More than 2 million Muslims are expected to take part in this year’s Hajj pilgrimage to Makkah — a spiritual journey that forms an integral part of the Islamic faith. The visit, however, can be extremely demanding on the body and mind.

As pilgrims descend on Saudi Arabia for the six-day journey to the holy sites, doctors are encouraging visitors to prioritize their health so that they are able to complete the religious rituals before celebrating Eid later in the week.

Contrary to the rules put in place over the last two years, Saudi Arabia is no longer imposing an age limit on older pilgrims. As a result, the number of Muslims performing Hajj in 2023 is expected to return to, or even surpass, pre-pandemic levels.

Following the World Health Organization’s announcement last May declaring the COVID-19 pandemic over, pilgrims are now free to experience Hajj without complicated travel and quarantine requirements and grueling testing and social distancing restrictions.




Pilgrims are now free to experience Hajj without complicated travel and quarantine requirements and grueling testing and social distancing restrictions. (Huda Bashatah/AN)

That said, Muslims who traveled this year were still required to have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and one booster, as well as vaccinations against seasonal viruses such as influenza and meningitis.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic has been declared over by some governments, the virus is still circulating and there is a risk of it spreading during the Hajj season as it involves a large gathering of people from all over the world,” Dr. Mamdouh Masoud, a general practitioner at Almana Group of Hospitals in Saudi Arabia, told Arab News.

Masoud said pilgrims remain at risk of developing health problems, not least from contagious infections.

“The most common health problems we see during this period include respiratory infections, heat-related illnesses, dehydration, cardiovascular disease, and trauma,” he said.

Whether walking around the Holy Kaaba in Makkah, performing the circumambulation seven times between the Safa or Marwa, or traveling between Mina and Arafat or Makkah and Madinah, Hajj requires a person to be physically strong and somewhat fit.

Masoud said pilgrims must be aware of their own medical history and should take precautions, such as staying hydrated, taking medications on time, using face masks, avoiding crowded places, and refraining from strenuous activity, particularly in hot weather, in order to reduce the risk of illness.




It is important for pilgrims to protect themselves from extreme heat by drinking lots of fluids, taking breaks, and staying in the shade as much as possible. (Abdulrahman Alshalhoub/AN)

According to Dr. Sarla Kumari, an internal medicine physician at the Canadian Specialist Hospital, the spread of respiratory tract infections is common during Hajj due to mass gatherings.

This is followed by gastro-intestinal infections, more specifically diarrhea, as a result of poor hand hygiene, as well as meningitis infections.

“The main pathogen resulting in diarrhea is E. coli, and Saudi Arabia specifically has a high rate of third-generation cephalosporin-resistant E. coli,” said Kumari.

Another is salmonella, which is often the cause of severe diarrhea among pilgrims and requires medical attention and proper rehydration.

“In the last few years the government has set up special clinics and those suffering from these symptoms should attend those clinics which are equipped to handle these kinds of issues effectively,” said Kumari.

Given that Hajj has fallen during the summer months in recent years and will continue to do so for several more, Masoud said it is important for pilgrims to protect themselves from extreme heat by drinking lots of fluids, taking breaks, and staying in the shade as much as possible.

“The hot weather in Saudi Arabia during Hajj seasons can increase the risk of heat-related illnesses, such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and dehydration … and these illnesses can be serious,” he said.




Pilgrims are advised to regularly apply sunscreen and carry an umbrella to help protect themselves from ultraviolet rays. (Huda Bashatah/AN)

Dr. Farhana bin Lootah, an internal medicine consultant at Imperial College London Diabetes Centre in Abu Dhabi, advised pilgrims to regularly apply sunscreen and carry an umbrella to help protect themselves from ultraviolet rays.

“Consuming plenty of fluids is also very important to avoid dehydration, which can potentially escalate into heat exhaustion, a serious health emergency,” she said.

For those with chronic illnesses, however, adhering to general safety measures can go a long way toward keeping them healthy.

Pilgrims with long-term health conditions must remember to carry their prescription medications at all times, along with face masks, a first aid kit, and an umbrella for hotter days, said bin Lootah.

Items like cooling creams, disposable towels and comfortable footwear can also help make the trip more comfortable.




Pilgrims are advised to regularly apply sunscreen and carry an umbrella to help protect themselves from ultraviolet rays. (Abdulrahman Fahad Bin Shulhub/AN)

“Preparations for Hajj have been underway for a long time, and pilgrims are treated with the utmost caution to their safety,” bin Lootah said.

However, for patients with heart disease, it might be advisable to wear masks when in crowds to avoid any kind of respiratory diseases commonly found in densely populated areas.

For those with diabetes, bin Lootah added, it is essential to bring along a glucose meter to check blood sugar levels throughout the trip.

“Again, my general advice to pilgrims would be to maintain good hygiene and to wash your hands before handling any food or water, and using sanitizer when permitted,” she said.


Hail deputy governor joins Zubaida Trail for Founding Day

Hail deputy governor joins Zubaida Trail for Founding Day
Updated 22 February 2024
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Hail deputy governor joins Zubaida Trail for Founding Day

Hail deputy governor joins Zubaida Trail for Founding Day

HAIL: Prince Faisal bin Fahd bin Muqrin, the deputy governor of Hail region, took part in a Zubaida Trail caravan on Thursday to mark Founding Day celebrations.

The caravan, overseen by the Heritage Commission and organized by the Caravans Trails Association, began its journey from the historic city of Fayd to Sumaira’ Province.

Prince Faisal honored the sponsors and partners, and along with hikers, horseback riders, camel riders and cyclists, took part in the caravan journey.

Along the route, the deputy governor spoke to groups taking part in the event, including Saudis and foreigners in the Kingdom.

Prince Faisal praised the government’s support for the heritage sector, and commended the dedication of all parties involved in the caravan program.

Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Obeida, general supervisor of the Zubaida Trail, praised the support given to the initiative by the Saudi leadership, as well as the Hail governor and his deputy.

He said that the scheme aims to revitalize the ancient route, which is one of many in Saudi Arabia dating back over 1,000 years.

Al-Obeida highlighted the importance of community involvement in sustaining and developing the trail route for economic, cultural and tourism purposes.
 


Endangered native animals released in Saudi reserve

Endangered native animals released in Saudi reserve
Updated 22 February 2024
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Endangered native animals released in Saudi reserve

Endangered native animals released in Saudi reserve

AL-ULA: Fourteen Arabian oryxes and 40 Arabian sand gazelles have been released into the Gharameel nature reserve by the the National Center for Wildlife.

The conservation effort at Gharameel, located 60 km north of AlUla, took place with cooperation from the Royal Commission for AlUla.

The reserve features unique biodiversity throughout its rock and sand formations, and hillsides.

Resettlement of endangered native species is a key target of the center, as well as restoring biodiversity and environmental balance as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.

Animal reintroduction also promotes the RCU’s plan to activate six nature reserves while regenerating AlUla as a leading global destination for cultural and natural heritage.

The formations of rocky pillars in the area were created through wind and rain erosion over thousands of years.

AlUla is also a popular stargazing destination for tourists from around the world.
 


Saudi honeybee program achieves 200% productivity boost

Saudi honeybee program achieves 200% productivity boost
Updated 22 February 2024
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Saudi honeybee program achieves 200% productivity boost

Saudi honeybee program achieves 200% productivity boost

RIYADH: The honeybee breeding program — spearheaded by the Sustainable Agricultural Rural Development Program “Saudi Reef” in partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture — is poised to make a substantial impact on bee populations.

A select group of model beekeepers has achieved an impressive 200 percent increase in productivity by implementing the program.

According to the “Saudi Reef” program, the surge in production is attributed to a strategic focus on expanding queen bee rearing within the breeding and propagation program.

Additionally, the adoption of innovative production techniques and best practices, including hive management and organic beekeeping, has played a key role.

These practices have been documented in a booklet distributed to beekeepers and have yielded significant production boosts in several model farms established by the project.

Expanding on its success, the program plans to roll out projects for “bee queen breeding and nuclei production” across eight centers spanning regions such as Jazan, Najran, Asir, Baha, Makkah, Madinah, Hail and Tabuk.

Each center is expected to produce 5,000 queen bees annually, characterized by purity and high-production specifications.

This will enable beekeepers to expand queen bee breeding and bee colonies while preserving favorable genetic traits for enhanced production and resilience against diseases and environmental factors.

The honeybee development and honey production sector is a key focus of the “Saudi Reef” program. Since its inception, the program has had significant increases in production, enhancing the income and living standards of its beneficiaries.

To increase food security and agricultural self-sufficiency, Saudi Arabia unveiled an ambitious initiative in August last year to produce more than 7,500 tons of honey annually as part of the Saudi Reef.


Makkah expo focuses on next steps for hotel, culinary sectors

Makkah expo focuses on next steps for hotel, culinary sectors
Updated 22 February 2024
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Makkah expo focuses on next steps for hotel, culinary sectors

Makkah expo focuses on next steps for hotel, culinary sectors
  • Saudi employees trained at top schools bringing skills back to the Kingdom

MAKKAH: The Makkah Expo for Hotels and Restaurants, held at the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry Exhibition Center, ended on Wednesday evening.

The exhibition’s fifth edition was inaugurated by Vice Chairman of the Makkah Chamber of Commerce Mustafa Rajab and involved officials, business owners and company representatives.

A large number of companies and institutions representing the hotel and culinary sectors, specialized in serving Hajj and Umrah pilgrims and visitors, attended the three-day exhibition, which was held in collaboration with the Unit for Exhibition Organization.

Abdullah Haneef, the acting secretary-general of the Makkah Chamber of Commerce, told Arab News: “The exhibition provided an opportunity to access the best practices in the hotel and restaurant sectors, as it brought together a select group of people specialized in this field in Makkah, a pioneer in the hotel sector field attracting large numbers of visitors from around the world.”

He added that industry officials exchanged business ideas and showcased modern tools and technology, food products and hotel and restaurant supplies, and took part in several accompanying events.

Haneef added: “The exhibition offers an opportunity for investors, interested parties, specialized companies and experts in the hotel and restaurant sector from inside and outside the Kingdom, to display their products to investors and interested individuals and exchange expertise, as well as engage in commercial deals between exhibitors, participants and individuals interested in the hotel and restaurant sector.”

The exhibition also hosted a salon for culinary arts and live cooking demonstrations.

Khalid Al-Ghamdi, an investor in the hotel sector, said that the Saudi industry has begun a strong post-pandemic recovery, and is fulfilling its role in serving visitors.

He added that intensive training programs Saudi employees are undertaking in top international hotel schools are helping them apply their knowledge back in the Kingdom.

Al-Ghamdi said that the restaurant sector is facing significant challenges but also opportunities, including smart digital solutions.

Makkah is one of the most significant and holiest places worldwide, drawing millions of Muslims for religious rituals such as Hajj and Umrah, he added.

The city should therefore focus on enhancing future innovation plans and smart marketing to make the hospitality sector a top performer, through innovative solutions and major investment, he said.


Saudi, French FMs discuss bilateral ties on G20 sidelines

Saudi, French FMs discuss bilateral ties on G20 sidelines
Updated 22 February 2024
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Saudi, French FMs discuss bilateral ties on G20 sidelines

Saudi, French FMs discuss bilateral ties on G20 sidelines
  • Ministers reviewed latest regional and international developments, particularly Israel’s war on Gaza

RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan met on Thursday with his French counterpart Stephane Segournet on the sidelines of the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in Rio de Janeiro.

They discussed bilateral relations and ways to enhance them in various fields, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

They also reviewed the latest regional and international developments, particularly Israel’s war on Gaza.

The Kingdom’s Ambassador to Brazil Faisal Ghulam and Walid Al-Smail, assistant director general of the Saudi foreign minister’s office, were also present at the meeting.