Flagellants have been warned that while whipping or crucifying themselves may protect them from eternal damnation, it’s not quite so effective against tetanus or hepatitis.
Health experts have reminded devotees preparing for their public displays of penitence this Holy Week – such as at The Cutud Lenten Rites – that they face a serious risk of infection.
Dr Katha Ngo, an infectious disease specialist at the ManilaMed, said that penitents could be exposing themselves to tetanus, also known as ‘lockjaw’, a serious and potentially deadly condition.
“We’re not in a position to say, ‘don’t do that’, of course,” she said. “We respect their beliefs, but they have to know that they are exposing themselves to possible infection.
“Penitents can actually contract infections such as wound infection, hepatitis B infection, and tetanus infection.
“If a wound infection is left untreated, it may spread to the deeper tissues beneath the skin. It may spread through the blood right through the body’s system. This can give you fever and may develop into severe infection.”
To help prevent infection, flagellants are advised not to rely on prayer, but rather to take anti-tetanus and other shots beforehand.
Dr Ngo said that the cost of a couple of shots was always going to be less than protracted hospital treatment.
“As they say, ‘prevention is always better than cure’. I recommend that if they engage in these types of activities in observance of their faith, they should always be updated with their vaccination. After the activity, they should immediately clean the wound and get checked by a specialist.
Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial underlined the message, with some practical advice for those wishing to drive nails through their palms. “Infection can develop in any type of wound so for those practicing their penitence by nailing themselves to the cross, they usually use and share among them various tools such as sticks, blades, or any sharp objects to inflict pain or wounds.
“We caution penitents to sterilise the nails and other sharp objects that will be used during flagellation. Tetanus can easily be contracted with the use of unsterilised or rusty nails.
“Afterwards, they are advised to clean their wounds with clean water and soap.”
To spectate on The Cutud Lenten Rites, contact our friends at GNTours