Saudi Arabia – Preparing Your Health for the Hajj October 1, 2012 By Will Sowards 1 Comment Each year, millions of people make the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj. Muslims from all over the world meet in Islam’s Holy City to perform a religious duty and fulfill their requirement to perform the Hajj pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. If you are visiting Saudi for the 2012 Hajj pilgrimage from October 24-29, the following travel guide will help in preparing for all the potential elements of your Hajj pilgrimage. Saudi Arabia Travel Weather The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia spans an area of 870,000 square miles and is best known for its desert landscapes and hot, dry climate, though there are scenic mountains and fertile valleys here, too. The majority of the country experiences extreme heat all year. Usually, Hajj pilgrims have to endure temperatures that are still over 100F. Keeping cool in this high heat can be challenging, especially when surrounded by thousands of other pilgrims, so be sure to dress in light, cool clothing, and drink plenty of water. Required Vaccinations for Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia has strict entry restrictions, and there are a number of travel vaccinations that you must obtain before your departure. You will be required to show proof of your required vaccines for the Hajj, without which, you will likely be denied entry into the country. Hajj immunizations are enforced for the protection of pilgrims, and of course for Saudi nationals. With people visiting from all over the world, the possibility for the spread of numerous diseases in highly increased. Outbreaks of meningococcal meningitis have been high in previous years, so the meningococcal meningitis vaccine is now required for entry. If you have traveled from an endemic Yellow Fever zone, you will also need to show a Yellow Fever certificate. Regardless of where you’re traveling from, however, it’s recommended that all Hajj travelers obtain Yellow Fever vaccination to reduce their susceptibility to the disease, as the risk for un-vaccinated visitors remains high. The CDC also strongly recommends getting up-to-date with routine vaccinations for the Hajj, including Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Typhoid. Although pilgrims from the United States are not required to show proof of a polio vaccination for entry to Saudi Arabia, it is recommended that you have been fully vaccinated against this disease before traveling. Staying Healthy During the Hajj Even after you’ve protected yourself with all the recommended and required Hajj immunizations, there are still necessary precautions to take during your time in Saudi Arabia to ensure your health is properly maintained. With so many thousands of pilgrims congregating in the same place, the threats of common colds and flu are high, as are the risks for contracting communicable diseases that can cause diarrhea and stomach illnesses. Bring medication with you to help fight off these problems so you can stay healthy during your travels and return home well. Other minor problems that are common during the Hajj include sores and blisters from extensive walking in high heat. Remember to treat these wounds as soon as possible and keep them covered with clean bandages to prevent infection. Drink plenty of water and, whenever possible, seek shade from the sun. If you’re particularly prone to heat exhaustion, try to plan some of your activities late in the evening when temperatures are lower.