Hajj and Umrah: Travel Health

10.06.2022 Category: Travel Health Author: Dr Richard Dawood

Hajj and Umrah are religious pilgrimages to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Hajj is a mandatory Pilgrimage for every Muslim to take once in their lifetime, given that the individual is physically and financially able.

It takes place in the last month of the Islamic calendar and is taken annually by 2.5 million Muslims worldwide pre-pandemic. Whereas, Umrah is a shorter pilgrimage to Mecca taken any time of the year. 

Muslims from all over the world gather annually in Mecca in a display of unity, faith and solidarity. Due to the large number of participants performing the pilgrimage there are some health risks you should be aware of.

There are also health requirements set by the Health Ministry of Saudi Arabia that you could affect your VISA, it is good to be aware of those requirements before travelling. 

COVID-19 Requirements:

It’s been announced that the Saudi Ministry will allow up to 1 million Muslims to participate in Hajj 1443H/2022. British citizens wishing to perform Umrah or Hajj are required to be: 

  • Under the age of 65 and received COVID-19 vaccinations which has been approved by the Saudi Ministry of Health
  • Travellers from outside of Saudi Arabia must submit a negative COVID-19 PCR test 72 hours before their departure to Saudi Arabia. 

Whilst Covid-19 vaccinations are not available privately, Covid-19 PCR travel tests are. We believe in access to rapid PCR testing to remove the worry of waiting for your results. We guarantee all our turnaround times – with our fastest being 90 minutes. For more information and pricing: Covid PCR travel tests at Fleet Street Clinic

 

Vaccine Requirements:

A pre-travel consultation should be scheduled at least 6 to 8 weeks before your trip.
Any mandatory or advised vaccinations will be discussed with a nurse. Initial doses can be given during this initial appointment and you can pre-book any required follow up doses in the lead up to Hajj or Umrah pilgrimage.

Before travelling to Hajj or Umrah, it is highly recommended that pilgrims be up-to-date in all their wellness vaccinations.

– Meningitis

All British citizens travellers performing Umrah or Hajj are required to submit a valid Meningitis ACWY vaccination certificate in order to obtain a visa.  The MenACWY vaccine protects against meningitis (strains A, C, W & Y) and sepsis. Adults and children over the age of 2 are required to have the vaccine and provide evidence of immunisation no less than 10 days before you plan to arrive in Saudi Arabia. This requirement also applies to seasonal workers in Hajj areas.
You may also want to consider Meningitis B vaccine – this is not a mandatory VISA requirement.

If you require a vaccination, you can choose from our available appointments online – click to book your appointment.

Flu Vaccine

Since both Hajj and Umrah both pose crowded conditions and close contact, seasonal flu vaccination is advised, especially for those who are more vulnerable to severe influenza diseases. This precautionary measure will help reduce the potential spread of the flu.

If you require a vaccination, you can choose from our available appointments online – click to book your appointment.

Hepatitis B

Hep B is spread by contaminated blood and bodily fluid. Pilgrims who intend to shave their heads as one of the rites of Hajj should consider taking the vaccination. Although licensed barbers performing head shaving are obliged to use a new blade for each pilgrim, unlicensed barbers may not adhere to this practice. Vaccinations require 3 injections to be given over a 3 week period and can be given from birth. 

If you require a vaccination, you can choose from our available appointments online – click to book your appointment.

Rabies

Rabies is  spread through the bite of an infected animal such as cats, dogs, monkeys and bats. Saudi Arabia is classified as a high-risk country for rabies. Full protection is achieved with 3 doses – 2 vaccinations usually given over a 3 week period, however, we do offer a rapid course which can achieve full protection in 7-days.  The rabies vaccine can be given from birth.

If you require a vaccination, you can choose from our available appointments online – click to book your appointment.


TRAVELLERS DIARRHOEA

Travellers’ diarrhoea can occur in up to 60% of travellers. Eating contaminated food or water are the usual culprits. Although most cases are mild, taking sensible precautions with food and water can reduce the risk. Carrying medicines for self-treatments is useful such as our Gastro Kit which contains medicines including antibiotics. The best protection is a preventative measure. 


CLIMATE HEALTH

Saudi Arabia has had some of the hottest temperatures on record this year. Exposure to such high temperatures increases sweating, and results in loss of fluid and electrolytes which can cause rapid dehydration. This can result in heat exhaustion or heat stroke which can be life threatening if not dealt with promptly. 

Heat related illness can be avoided by the following:

  • Seek shelter and shade during the middle of the day (11am-3pm) when temperatures are the hottest
  • If you are outside, ensure you protect your sin against the sun with high factor sun cream
  • Wear loose fitting, lightweight and light colour clothing 
  • Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids and eating food with high water content (such as fruit)
  • Ensure you are taking sufficient salt in your diet (sweating leads to electrolyte and salt depletion)
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can worsen heat related illnesses


GENERAL HEALTH:

Both Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages require strenuous effort, it is worth considering having a full body medical check up before you travel to ensure you are in good health. To prepare for the miles of walking, try increasing your physical activities to improve mobility and movement. In case of unforeseen circumstances, remember too pack a first aid kit and extra supplies of any prescribed medication you are currently taking. We have an onsite pharmacy if you’d like to purchase any of these items during your appointment, speak with your GP or nurse whilst at the clinic.

 

Delaying your period:

If you decide you would like to delay your period for pilgrimage, you can do so by taking hormonal medication. In advance of your trip, book an appointment with a GP to discuss your options as soon as possible.

 

When you get home:

If you return home unwell it is important to book an appointment with a GP to determine the cause. If your symptoms worsen or becoming life-threatening do not wait to see a doctor, go straight to A&E for urgent medical care.

If you return with a stomach bug or persistent travellers’ diarrhoea, you may want to consider booking a Gastrointestinal (GI) Panel PCR test – it looks for any microbes (bacteria, viruses & parasites) that may be causing your symptoms and can quickly identify the exact cause. Results can be provided in as little as 1-hour, so that accurate and effective treatment can begin straight away. Firstly, you need to book a GP appointment, express your interest in a GI PCR test and they will advise whether you are suitable or not.

 

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