Before your foreign travel, contact us. We offer professional assistance, vaccination and prevention guideline custom made for you and your travel plan.
Health Regulations for Pilgrimage
Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health (MoH) publishes and regularly updates the information and recommendations about the regulations to follow during the pilgrimage. These recommendations for travellers contain all the vaccine requirements for your entry into the country. Make sure you are up do date with all the information before you make pilgrimage this year.
Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV): a viral respiratory infection that causes a fever, cough and shortness of breath. If you have any of these symptoms after travelling to Saudi Arabia, seek medical advice as soon as possible.
For your own safety, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health recommend that the following people should delay taking Hajj or Umrah:
- People with chronic medical conditions like heart, kidney or respiratory diseases
- People with immune deficiencies, terminal or malignant illnesses
- Pregnant women
Both Haj and Umrah can be exhaustive for your health, so it’s important you’re certain that you are mentally and physically prepared. If you’re going this year, the Ministry of Health has published a list of helpful tips and guidelines for pilgrims to follow in order to help reduce the risk of respiratory infection. Here’s a quick round-up of what they say:
Personal hygiene is crucial: make sure to wash your hands with soap, water or antibacterial gel regularly. If you’re coughing or sneezing, or are around people who are, then this is extra important.
Always use disposable tissues, not handkerchiefs, if you need them. Make sure you dispose those appropriately so as not to pass on infection.
Try not to touch your eyes, nose and mouth with your hands, as this is an easy way for infection to spread.
Don’t go to close proximity to anyone showing signs of infection.
Try not to come into direct contact with animals, and always wash your hands properly afterwards if you do.
Take proper care with anything you eat or drink while you’re on pilgrimage: avoid any food that’s been made in unsanitary conditions, and make sure that any cooked food is piping hot before you eat it, especially if the dish contains meat. Wash all fresh fruit and vegetables with clean drinking water before you eat them, and avoid anything with unpasteurised milk in it like camel’s milk.
There are a number of different vaccines you could need before taking a trip to Saudi Arabia. We recommend arranging a consultation with one of our experts at clinic to discuss your individual vaccination requirements.
If you’re coming from within the UK, then you’ll need the vaccine against Meningococcal Meningitis. Anyone over the age of 2 making an Umrah or Hajj pilgrimage, or even anyone planning on a work trip to the Hajj area, will need to bring a certificate of vaccination. You’ll have to bring one that’s been issued no longer than 3 years ago and no less than 10 days before the flight. If you’re coming from the UK, you won’t even be able to get a visa for your trip unless you’ve got the certificate proving this while you apply.
If you are coming from outside the UK, there are a few other vaccination requirements depending on where you’re coming from:
- Anyone coming from a country that the World Health Organisation (WHO) lists as having known infections of Yellow Fever must bring a valid yellow fever certificate with them when they come. Here’s a link to the list of countries at risk of yellow fever
- If you’re travelling from a country that has a high risk of the Polio virus (poliomyelitis), you’ll have to take a dose of the oral polio vaccine. This is for everyone, regardless of how old you are or which other vaccines you’ve had. Here’s the list of countries affected: http://www.who.int/wer/2014/wer8932_33.pdf?ua=1
As well as these, the Saudi Arabian MoH recommends that pilgrims have had all the usual immunisations you need for living in the UK (i.e. 5 doses of the tetanus vaccine and 5 doses of the polio vaccine). You’ll need to get a booster vaccine for polio if it’s been more than 10 years since your last one.
This is also a great chance to check you’re protected against measles, seasonal influenza and rubella. These are all diseases that are easy to prevent with the right vaccine. We’d recommend that you get the seasonal influenza vaccine if you’re planning on making Hajj, especially if you’re over 65, have chronic heart or chest disease, diabetes or are on immunosuppression medicine. Because there have been more cases of measles and rubella recently, you should be extra careful to make sure you’re immune to them before you go. You’ll know if you are or not by checking with your GP whether you’ve had 2 doses of the MMR vaccine, or if you’ve had measles naturally before.
There is some risk of malaria for pilgrims travelling around the South West region of Saudi Arabia. It’s particularly high in the winter months between September and January, but a lot lower in higher-altitude cities in the Asir Province like Mecca, Medina, Jeddah and Taif. Unfortunately, while the risk is low in cities like Mecca and Medina, this is not the case for the journey in-between. During the 6 hour trip, you’ll pass right through an area of very high risk. If you’re travelling by daylight, in a car or bus with air-conditioning, then it is a lot lower, but it’s still important to practice good insect and mosquito bite avoidance.
Unluckily, travellers’ diarrhoea is a common enough disease and all travellers during Hajj will be at risk. This is especially true for those eating food prepared in contaminated or unsanitary conditions. Even if you’re on a low budget, try to avoid anything that seems too risky: steer clear of unpasteurised dairy products, unpeeled fruit and veg, and make sure you have clean, treated drinking water at all times. If you’re travelling over with young children, people over 65 or with a pre-existing medical condition, then they could become more seriously dehydrated and ill if they catch travellers’ diarrhoea. For more information, read our page on travellers’ diarrhoea.
Climate Related Health Risks
It probably won’t come as a surprise to you that, even in the winter months, Saudi Arabia will be very, very hot... In the coolest months it’s common for temperatures during the day to reach up to 30°c! Because it is so warm, all pilgrims are at risk of heat-related illnesses like sunstroke, sunburn, dehydration and heat stroke or exhaustion. Here are our top tips for staying healthy even in extreme climates during Hajj:
- Try to make your way there in good time before the pilgrimage so that you’ve got enough time to acclimatise to the hot weather.
- Rest-up whenever you can. Try to take regular pit-stops in shady areas along the way. Recently, the Saudi government has tried a lot harder to provide shady spots for pilgrims, but just in case you can’t find anywhere why not create your own with an umbrella or parasol?
- The Saudi Ministry has also decreed that all pilgrims can perform the Stoning the Devil at any point between sunrise and sunset. So if you’re really suffering from the heat, try to perform as many rituals as possible in the early evening or earlier in the morning when it’s cool.
- Wear plenty of sun cream during the day and keep hydrated with safe drinking water.
- Because you’ll be walking most of the time, often across a hot sandy desert, you must bring sturdy walking sandals or good-quality shoes with you. This is especially important for anyone suffering from diabetes. Stow your shoes away in a small tote bag when you remove them for prayer.
It’s very hot most of the year in Saudi Arabia, but it can also get cold at night during the winter months, so make sure you’ve got suitable clothing and bedding with you for all year round.
For male pilgrims, one of the biggest health risks is the ritual head shaving that happens at the end of Hajj. Only go to the official shaving centres, and steer clear of any unlicensed barbers or shavers you’ll see on the roadside. Non-sterile or shared razor blades can pass on blood-borne infections like hepatitis B, C, and HIV. If you can’t be shaved with your own razor, only ever use a licensed barber who has already been tested for these infections and is required by law to use one blade per person.
Because Hajj is the biggest and busiest pilgrimage of its kind in the world, it’s hardly surprising that accidents and injuries happen. It’s essential that you are up-to-date and fully repatriated with a comprehensive travel and medical insurance certificate well before you set off.
Since the stampede of 2006, in which more than 365 pilgrims tragically died, the Saudi government has been working hard to make improvements to the buildings at Jamaraat and the bridges around it. Try to avoid the fullest crowds and take care while crossing busy roads during the pilgrimage.
It’s common for pilgrims to get minor leg or foot injuries after walking such a long way, so you must bring supportive footwear with you for the trip. If you have diabetes or bad circulation then you’ll need to take special care during the walk and wear the appropriate socks and footwear. If you do hurt yourself from walking and you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, then go get checked out by a medical professional as soon as you can.
Before you go
The best advice we can give you before undertaking Hajj is to see your GP or speak to our pharmacist. They’ll be able to assess you properly to make sure you’re up-to-date with all the above vaccines, and that you’re fit enough to make the pilgrimage itself. Have a general check-up before you go, especially if you’re over 65, pregnant, diabetic, have hypertension or an underlying heart or lung condition.
Your GP or nurse will also be able to make sure you’ve got enough of any prescription medicines for the whole trip. Ask them for a print-out of your prescription and a letter explaining that these are for private, medical use so that you don’t have any problems at the airport. Keep these medicines in their original packaging in your hand luggage so that they’re easy to access. If you’re due to have a period during Hajj, you might also want to talk to your GP about the types of hormonal therapy you can take in order to delay menstruation until afterwards to save the hassle.
Exercise, exercise, exercise! Before Hajj is the perfect time to get fit! All pilgrims should aim to be active and mobile before they go because it will be too tiring if you’re not properly prepared. If you’ve got a chronic condition like diabetes, asthma or epilepsy, or you’re on an anticoagulant therapy with warfarin, then aim to have these at a manageable level of control before you go.
Finally, every pilgrim should bring their own personal first aid kit with them so that they’re fully prepared for what the trip will throw at them. In a small bag, pack:
- Fabric plasters, bandages and dressings
- Scissors, safety pins and tape
- Antiseptic cream, antihistamine and sunburn lotion
- Eehydration salts
- Analgesics and paracetamol for pain
- Antidiarrheal tablets or agents (such as azithromycin)
Wishing you a happy and healthy pilgrimage!
ABC of Travel Vaccination:
Book an appointmentSix to eight weeks before you travel, giving you time to start any courses of vaccinations
Have a free personalised adviceOur specially-trained pharmacist will advise you on any vaccinations
Get vaccinations you may needYou'll also be given additional personalised advice to help you stay healthy on your trip
Available vaccinations at our Pharmacy
Our service offers the following vaccinations:
- Hepatitis A?
- Hepatitis B
- Japanese encephalitis
- Meningitis ACWY
- Tick-borne encephalitis
- Yellow fever?
- Measles, Mumps, and Rubella
We also recommend making sure that your childhood immunisations are up to date to protect you against diseases like:
Benefits of the service
- local: We are a local Pharmacy
- Convenient: Book an appointment time to suit you
For your appointment
Please Call 020 8852 6292 and talk to our pharmacist
You will need:
- Details about your trip (like destination, date and planned activities)
- Details of any medical condition or medication you're taking
- History of previous vaccinations if known