Health Advice for the Pilgrimage of Hajj and Umrah
Hajj is an Islamic religious pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, that was attended by 1 to 3 million pilgrims annually prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pilgrimage takes place between the 8th and 13th days of the Islamic calendar's twelfth and final month.
Because the Islamic calendar is eleven days shorter than the calendar used in the Western world, the date of Hajj is eleven days earlier each year.
The approximate dates for the Hajj (1443) in 2022 are July 7 to 12.
Umrah is a pilgrimage to Mecca that can be completed at any time of year. Umrah may be:
combined with the Hajj (known as Umrat al-tammatu) or performed separately from the Hajj (called al-Umrat al mufradah)
Before planning a trip to Saudi Arabia, consult the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) for the most up-to-date information on 'entry requirements' and rules you must follow.
Regulations for Hajj and Umrah in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health Recommendation
The Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health issues requirements and recommendations for entry visas and vaccinations for Hajj and Umrah every year (MoH). For Hajj 2022, these have yet to be announced.
Hajj and Umrah are physically demanding pilgrimages.
You should think about postponing Hajj or Umrah if you are:
- are over the age of 65, have a health condition such as heart, kidney, or lung disease, or diabetes,
- or have a health condition that affects your immune system,
- or have cancer or a terminal illness
- are pregnant and under the age of 12
A pre-travel consultation should be scheduled at least 6 to 8 weeks before your trip. It is recommended that you do the following before travelling for Hajj or Umrah:
- are up to date on childhood vaccinations such as diphtheria, tetanus, and polio; and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR)
- receive the recommended and required Saudi Arabia vaccinations
- obtain the seasonal influenza vaccine
Insurance for Travel
All pilgrims are strongly advised to purchase comprehensive travel insurance. For more information, please see the travel insurance page.
Fitness in general
You should make every effort to be physically fit for Hajj and Umrah.
The pilgrimage entails walking a few miles every day, which can be strenuous even for the fittest of people.
It is recommended that you improve your overall mobility and fitness at least 4 to 6 weeks before your departure.
If you are over the age of 50 or have a known health condition, you may benefit from a general health checkup with your doctor.
Before you travel, make sure that any medical conditions you have are under control. Before you leave, you should also get your teeth and eyes checked.
Taking Medication Abroad
Renew your prescription and ensure you have enough medications to last the duration of your trip.
A letter from your doctor detailing your current medications could be useful for immigration purposes.
All medications should be kept in their original packaging and transported in hand luggage, along with a printed copy of your prescription.
Some medications, such as those containing morphine, may be prohibited in Saudi Arabia.
More information can be found on the FCDO website.
Delaying Your Period
If you want to postpone your period (menstruation) while performing Hajj, you can do so by taking hormonal medication such as Norethisterone tablets.
Discuss this with a healthcare practitioner such as your GP, practise nurse, or pharmacist at least 2 to 3 months before your pilgrimage.
You should bring a first-aid kit on any long-distance journey that includes a long duration.
Please seek advice on which items and medications to include in your first aid kit.
Drink plenty of water while travelling because dehydration is common.
To reduce your risk of becoming ill, wash your hands frequently, especially before eating and drinking and after using the toilet.
Diarrhea in Travellers
Travellers’ Diarrhea is common among Hajj pilgrims.
It is primarily transmitted through contaminated food and water.
You can also become infected if you do not wash your hands before eating or drinking, and if you touch your face because germs may have touched surfaces.
You can become dehydrated quickly if you have travellers' diarrhoea, especially if you have underlying medical issues.
It is critical to avoid dehydration if you have travellers' diarrhoea. You can accomplish this by:
- consuming plenty of fluids, such as water and diluted fruit juices
- rehydration solutions, such as packets of oral rehydration salts sold in pharmacies
- it is essential to use safe drinking water.
You should seek medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- you have more than 6 bouts of diarrhoea in a day
- there is blood or slime (mucous) in your diarrhoea
- you are vomiting and unable to keep fluids down
- you have a fever, and you have severe stomach pain
MERS CoV and Respiratory Infections
In crowded areas, respiratory tract infections such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS CoV) can spread quickly.
By following Respiratory Hygiene advice, you can reduce your risk of catching and spreading respiratory infections.
Avoiding Mosquito Bites
It is critical to try to avoid mosquito bites. Mosquito bites can transmit diseases such as dengue fever, leishmaniasis, chikungunya, and Rift Valley fever.
Climate-related Health Dangers
Even in the winter, temperatures in Saudi Arabia can reach 30°C during the day, putting everyone at risk of:
- heat exhaustion
- heat stroke
Arriving a few days early will allow you to acclimate to the hot conditions before performing Hajj.
You can perform some rituals between sunrise and sunset to avoid high daytime temperatures.
It is critical to:
- whenever possible, take a break
- keep yourself hydrated by drinking safe liquids
- wherever possible, seek shade (light coloured umbrellas can be used to create shade)
- to protect your feet, wear high-quality footwear
- use a sunscreen with a factor of 15 or higher
Shaving is linked to the transmission of blood-borne viruses
Unsanitary razor blades can spread blood-borne infections like hepatitis B and HIV. To reduce your risk, you should do the following:
- When preparing for Hajj rituals, avoid sharing shaving blades or razors.
- Use a licenced barber at a designated location and avoid street barbers.
- Before shaving, request that your barber wash their hands. Also, ensure that your barber is using a new disposable single-use razor, or request that they use your personal razor.
- Avoid all other types of razors, including those that require blade replacement after each shave.
- Ensure that used blades are disposed of safely after use in designated containers.
Injuries and accidents
During the Hajj pilgrimage, accidents and injuries are possible.
As pilgrims may have to walk long distances through or near heavy traffic and busy roads, road traffic vehicle accidents are a potential hazard.
Minor foot injuries are common. You should try to wear protective footwear that is both comfortable and of high quality.
If you have diabetes or any other condition that causes poor circulation to your lower limbs, you must pay special attention to the health of your feet.
When you get back home
If you return home, you should call your GP or NHS24 as soon as possible if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- problematic respiratory symptoms
- other symptoms consistent with COVID-19
You should make a point of mentioning your travel history. COVID-19 or MERS-CoV could both be the source of your symptoms.