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Extreme penitence may be dangerous to health

MANILA, Apr 15 (Mabuhay) – The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday reminded the public about the adverse effects of performing extreme, self-punishing acts of penitence, saying these may lead to heat stroke and tetanus infection.

The DOH warned that certain rituals and extreme acts of penitence performed under the heat of the sun, such as self-flagellation along the streets and crucifixion similar to those done in Cutud, Pampanga, may affect one’s health.

DOH-National Epidemiology Center Director Dr. Eric Tayag said penitents who stay under the heat of the sun may get dehydrated and have heat stroke.

A heat stroke happens when there is an abnormally elevated body temperature. If not treated immediately, it can lead to physical and neurological symptoms and may even be fatal.

Signs and symptoms of heat stroke include: difficulty breathing; hallucinations; rapid pulse; absence of sweating; dizziness; vomitting; seizure.

Tourists watching the penitential acts may also suffer from heat stroke and dehydration, the DOH said.

Tayag advised penitents and tourists alike to bring water to avoid dehydration. He said a person should drink at least ten to 13 glasses of water a day.

He also advised consulting a doctor before doing penitential rites to make sure the body is fit to do such activities.

“Ipa-check niyo po ang blood pressure niyo,” he said. “Tatanungin po kayo ng doktor ng kondisyon niyo na maaring makaapekto sa inyong pagpepenitensya,” he said.

(Have your blood pressure checked. Your doctor will ask for your health conditions that may affect your penitential rites.)


At the same time, the DOH also warned of tetanus infections for penitents who perform self-flagellation and crucifixion.

Tayag said tetanus infection may come from an unsterile environment and tools used for penitential acts.

Tetanus is an acute disease of the nervous system caused by bacteria. Tetanus infection may cause muscle spasms, which can constrict air passages and lead to death.

“Yung tetanus po kasi, nasa lupa po ang bacteria na ‘yon, so talagang ‘pag marumi ang pagkakagawa, maari kayong ma-infect (The tetanus bacteria is in the soil, so one may get infected if the penitential rite is performed in an unsanitary manner,” he said.

Tayag said penitents should have themselves vaccinated with anti-tetanus vaccine a few weeks before they expect to perform the rite.

He added that wounds should be treated properly and immediately to avoid further infections and complications. (MNS)

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