Fasting creates a greater risk of developing dehydration if the holy month of Ramadan occurs in high summer temperatures, which may lead to fatigue and nausea.
Children, the elderly, patients with diabetes, kidney or other chronic diseases, as well as individuals who perform physical activity under the sun, are at a higher risk of dehydration.
Other dehydration risk factors are diseases accompanied by diarrhea, vomiting, high fever or increase in urine flow.
Severe dehydration starts with symptoms such as an extreme dry mouth, dry and wrinkled skin, feeling sluggish, lack of concentration, general fatigue, oversleeping, difficulty urinating, constipation, and cardiac arrhythmia.
Individuals who experience any of these symptoms or are suspected of having dehydration are urged to consult their physician immediately.
The following tips and advice can help avoid dehydration during the month of Ramadan:
- Drink between eight and 12 cups of water between Iftar and Suhour. It is preferable to drink lukewarm water instead of cold water as it is absorbed by the body faster. It is recommended to have soup daily during the holy month of Ramadan as soups are a good source of fluids. Furthermore, fruits and vegetables like watermelon, tomatoes, cucumber, grapes, etc. known for their high content of water, help reduce thirst.
- Avoid excessive use of spices and salt. It is preferrable to avoid foods high in spices at Iftar as this increases the body’s need for water. Furthermore, it is recommended that the use of salt in salads and when cooking be reduced. Consuming high amounts of salt may increase thirst.
- Show restraint when eating sweets. Research has shown that eating sweets increases thirst as they contain large amounts of sugar. Eat fruits instead that provide your body with fluids and quench your thirst.
- Caffeine and nicotine. Caffeine is a natural diuretic because it increases fluid loss and thirst. It is recommended that caffeinated drinks be avoided during Ramadan. This includes energy and carbonated drinks, tea and coffee. Also avoid smoking as it triggers a continuous dry mouth and thirst.
- Avoid sun exposure or physical activity during daytime. Due to high temperatures and direct sun exposure, it is necessary to drink plenty of water as the body is more likely to experience dehydration and an increase in thirst. The best time to exercise during the fasting period is just after Iftar as your body has been provided with food and drink to supply energy, and will have enough time to replenish lost fluids during exercise.
Dr. Alaa Abdallah Ashour,
General Practitioner, Health Education Programs
Ministry of Public Health