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Haj warning for sickle cell patients.

Bahrain: Sickle cell anaemia patients could be risking their lives by embarking on the Haj pilgrimage this year due to the scorching summer temperatures, a campaigner has warned.

The Health Ministry has confirmed some of the 3,700 Bahrainis performing Haj this year have the condition, Bahrain Sickle Cell Anaemia Patient Care Society president Zakreya Al Kadhem told the GDN.

However, he said the trip could prove fatal if they did not take proper precautions - and urged those who do have sickle cell anaemia to remain at home.

"For sickle cell patients, I hope they wait instead of travelling to Haj this year," said Mr Al Kadhem.

"For everyone else it is fine, but the temperatures will be very high and we want everyone to be safe.

"This is especially the case for those who have already done the Haj pilgrimage before and are doing this voluntarily now.

"I don't know which individuals are going exactly, but the Health Ministry said there are some."

The hereditary condition, in which patients develop sickle-shaped blood cells, is incurable and can cause severe pain among sufferers when the cells block veins - leading to symptoms known as a crisis.

Three Bahrainis died last month from complications associated with the condition, while two died in June. That compares to 18 between June and August last year.

A total of 18 Bahrainis have died this year so far from complications associated with the blood disease.

Mr Al Kadhem, whose company Al Kadhem Travel and Tourism Agency organises Haj pilgrimages, explained high temperatures put sickle cell anaemia patients at increased risk - especially if they spend long periods outdoors.

That is because they are more prone to dehydration, which can bring on a crisis.

"We need to minimise complications and deaths by avoiding dehydration," he said.

"We need to take more fluids during these months."

He urged patients to take vaccines when they travel and avoid oily foods, which can thicken the blood and also trigger attacks.

"We do advise that they (sickle cell anaemia patients) delay, but at the end of the day it's up to them," said Mr Al Kadhem, whose society this month launched a social media campaign encouraging sickle cell patients to eat fruits like watermelons to stay hydrated.

"The problem is that if they get sick, they don't just affect themselves - they affect everyone around them.

"It's a struggle to deal with someone in the middle of a crisis.

"Thank God we haven't had a sickle cell fatality during the Haj season for the last eight years or so, our last one was in 2005.

"But this doesn't mean people should be irresponsible."

An estimated 2.7 million Muslims took part in the Haj pilgrimage last year.

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:Aug 30, 2016
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