Advice to the pilgrims

As many as 10 devotees have died of heart attacks while undertaking the arduous climb to the famous Ayyappa temple in the Sabarimala hills since the beginning of the pilgrimage season two weeks ago.

Of the devotees who died, at least three were from Andhra Pradesh and the rest from Kerala and Tamil Nadu. In the last pilgrimage season, around 35 devotees had died of cardiac arrest while climbing the hill. Most of them belonged to the 45 plus age group.

The deaths have occurred though the authorities have set up four medical centres on key points — at the Pampa base camp, Neelimala, Appachimedu and Sannidhanam — where services of cardiologists are available round-the-clock.

Dr Kiran, a cardiologist of the SAHAS medical centre at Sannidhanam told – “Most of those who died in the last two weeks had a heart condition and were taking medicines, Ideally, heart patients should not undertake the trek. But they do because of their faith.”

He added – “Our main advice to the pilgrims, especially the aged ones, is to climb slowly and take frequent breaks in between,”

Though health volunteers are chanting the “climb slowly” mantra with megaphones at Pampa, pilgrims, in their fervent devotion, are exerting themselves too much putting their lives in danger. Many of those who died collapsed in the midst of the strenuous trek in Neelimala and Appachimedu hills last week.

“If the pilgrims feel chest pain or breathing difficulties, they should immediately go to the medical centre where they will be given treatment,” said Dr Kiran. Doctors have also been treating devotees for acute asthma attacks, palpitations, chest pain and hypoglycaemia.

“Those with breathing difficulties can make use of the oxygen parlours set up along the pathway,” said the physician.