Performing the rituals of Haj requires physical effort, and this may be exhausting for some people with chronic diseases, such as patients with high blood pressure or diabetes.
“Having high blood pressure or diabetes, however, does not preclude them from completing the Haj. But they have to be careful and follow their doctor’s instructions regarding taking medications, as well as measuring blood pressure and sugar levels regularly while performing Haj to maintain their physical health,” Dr Mohamed Maki Shalal, head of Emergency Department at Canadian Specialist Hospital Dubai, told Khaleej Times.
“After returning safely from the pilgrimage, it is recommended for them to see a doctor,” he advised.
Dr Shalal explained: “Intense physical activity during Haj and dietary changes may lead to an increased risk of blood sugar imbalance, as well as the risk of complications and infections of the diabetic foot.”
“This is very important as complications may occur for some diabetics performing Haj, such as diabetic ketoacidosis, or an excessive increase in the amount of sugar. Conversely, it can result to dehydration, fatigue or loss of consciousness due to lack of sugar,” he added.
Dr Shalal has given recommendations for diabetic pilgrims to keep their feet healthy.
He noted diabetes can lead to loss of sensation of pain as a result of damage to the nerves of the foot; making it susceptible to injuries and infections.
“Therefore, one must pay close attention during the pilgrimage trip and follow the following instructions carefully to ensure the safety of the foot from any injuries or ulcers:”
> Do daily examination of the foot carefully for lesions such as blisters, ulcers, or bleeding between the toes. It is recommended to use a mirror to examine the bottom of the foot and the heel.
> Use a high-quality, unscented moisturiser twice a day to prevent cracks while walking.
> Dry the feet well after ablution with a special cotton towel between the toes.
> Avoid immersing feet in hot water or exposing feet to hot water while taking a shower
> Move between the rituals of Haj using the car or a wheelchair, and avoid walking long distances.
> Wear comfortable, lightweight shoes with a lining at the heel. It is preferable that the shoes be flexible enough to reduce the effect of the foot meeting the ground, and it is not preferable to wear new shoes because they may rub against the foot.
> Be sure to check the shoes before wearing them every time for any foreign objects that may hurt the foot.
> Wear padded socks in places where shoes are prohibited, and avoid walking without shoes.
> Receive medical care in the event of foot ulcers, swollen or red feet, or signs of infection.
Tips for Haj pilgrims with high blood pressure
> Take prescribed medications on time.
> Measure blood pressure as regularly as possible.
> Ensure that the necessary medicines are taken for the duration of the pilgrimage trip.
> Do not overeat fatty foods, and eat low-salt and fat-free meals.
> Avoid drinking tea, coffee, or soda, as well as smoking. Because it raises blood pressure.
> Avoid fast food and packaged foods; because it may aggravate blood pressure.
> Avoid everything that causes stress, anxiety or excitement because they have a negative effect on blood pressure.
> Drink enough water (at least 8 glasses of water a day), as this helps control blood pressure.
> Avoid exposure to direct sunlight as much as possible and use a protective umbrella.
> If you feel any sign of high blood pressure, such as fatigue, headache, irregular heart rate, chest pain, or shortness of breath, inform the doctor accompanying the group or seek medical care from the nearest health centre.
> After returning safely from the pilgrimage, it is recommended to see a doctor.
Proper eye care
Meanwhile, Dr Muhsen Samaan, medical director at Barraquer Eye Hospital-Dubai, told Khaleej Times: “While performing Haj, one of the health risks is eye infection. Pilgrims are exposed to factors such as mixing with millions of people, high temperatures, and the abundance of dust and sand. These factors increase the possibility of eye diseases spreading and exacerbating their existing health problems.
Some of the concerns for those susceptible to eye problems include:
> Allergic conjunctivitis – This occurs frequently during Haj season due to exposure of the eyes to dust and sunlight. Allergic conjunctivitis is associated with symptoms such as excessive tearing, redness, and intense itching of the eyes.
How to prevent it: Wash your face and eyes with cold water and avoid direct exposure to sunlight by wearing sunglasses.
If symptoms persist, visit the nearest health centre to obtain special drops such as moisturising drops and anti-allergic eye drops, as directed by the doctor.
Advice for cardiac patients
Dr Rayyan Algordy, cardiology (Heart Care) at Prime Medical Center - Al Nahda, noted: “A cardiac patient can participate in the pilgrim if the condition is stable and with actual commitment to treatment and medical recommendations.
“During his participation in religious rituals, treatment and medical recommendations must be fully adhered to without change or delay, such as stopping certain medications or exaggerating effort and exhaustion.
Dr Algordy added: “Excessive eating should also be avoided. And get a sufficient and balanced amount of drinking water, especially in the afternoon.”
Maintain proper nutrition
Katheeja Basheer, clinical dietitian specialist at NMC Royal Hospital Sharjah, underlined: “Nutrition is a critical part of health status. Healthy eating habits are important to avoid and prevent any health problems like diarrhea, constipation, imbalance in the blood sugar levels, and many other health complications during traveling, including Haj.
Recommendatons during Haj:
> Eat right and ensure good quality and quantity of food
> Avoid buying uncovered food items.
> Eat healthy; a well balanced diet is important. Try to include variety of vegetables and fruits every day as these foods contain vitamins and minerals that boost the immune system and may help to prevent diseases.
> Clean fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating.
> Eat small and frequent meals to get enough energy and to prevent dizziness and tiredness.
> Try to limit caffeinated drinks as they lead to dehydration
> Do not skip meals. Keep healthy snacks like unsalted nuts, cut fruits, yoghurt, laban.
> Drink adequate quantity of water.
> Get enough rest and sleep
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