The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday warned penitents planning to whip themselves bloody and nail themselves to crosses as part of their Lenten rituals to be careful lest they suffer serious health problems.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona, in a press briefing, said that while they respected the Lenten tradition of flagellation and crucifixion which some Filipinos consider a form of “atonement for sins,” they would like to advise penitents to guard against infections from wounds like tetanus.
He explained that deep-cut wounds resulting from crucifixion and whipping could be exposed to the heat, dust and all sorts of bacteria.
“Tetanus could enter the body through the wounds,” he said.
Flagellants use whips with small pieces of metal or bamboo sticks at the tip to lash themselves. In some cases, others do the whipping for them.
Ona also reminded penitents to make sure that the nails to be used to crucify them are first soaked in sterilizing solution to protect from tetanus.
“It is also important that those who nail the flagellants to the cross are experts because they might damage vital nerves on the hands, affecting the (muscles of the) hands,” Ona said.
Likewise, flagellants are prone to dehydration because of the long walks they take under the scorching sun. Ona advised them to drink lots of water to get rehydrated.
The DOH also advised those going on pilgrimages this week to be mindful of what they eat and drink because disease could be spread through contaminated food and water.
“We can never be sure how the juice and other cold drinks sold in the streets were prepared so it’s better to be safe,” said Ona. “It’s better to prepare your own food to guard against illnesses such as diarrhea and others.”
Meanwhile, the DOH also warned the public against the “Big S” diseases, namely, sore eyes, sunburn, sipon at ubo (cold and cough), skin rashes, pagsusuka at pagdudumi (vomiting and diarrhea) and sakmal ng aso (dog bites).
“Sore eyes or conjunctivitis, when mistreated, can lead to blindness. More than just an eye irritation, it could be due to harmful bacteria or viruses that can be easily spread to other people. Hand washing can limit its spread,” Ona said.
“Sunburn can be prevented if you time your outdoor activities. Outdoor activities must be done in the early morning or late afternoon. Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Stay in the shade or seek cool places to prevent the ill effects of too much sun exposure,” he said.