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Frequently Asked Questions about Ramadan and Health

Q: Should a person with diabetes fast?

Answer: People who have their diabetes under control, either by diet or using tablets, may fast. However, their GP may require them to make changes to their medications in order to aid taking tablets outside the times of fasting. However, those who need insulin to control their diabetes are advised not to fast. ?


Q: I get severe migraines when i skip meals and it gets worse when i fast. should i fast at all?

Answer: Those with uncontrolled migraines are advised not to fast. However, adequate control of migraines is possible for most people with medications and alterations to lifestyle, and hence such avenues should be exhausted prior to deciding not to fast.

Please see your GP for further advice on better control of your migraines.

Q: Should a person with high or low blood pressure fast?

Answer: Those with well controlled high blood pressure with lifestyle alterations and/or medications may fast.

Their GP may require a change to their medications in order to aid taking tablets outside the times of fasting.

A person with so-called ¡¥low blood pressure¡¦, but who is otherwise is well and healthy may fast. An adequate intake of fluid and salts in the diet is advised.

Q: Is fasting harmful when a woman is expecting a baby? is it compulsory to fast while pregnant?

Answer: It is not compulsory to fast while pregnant, but the woman will need to either make up those fasts later or, if unable to, should do fidyah. There is some medical evidence to show that fasting in pregnancy is not advisable. If a pregnant woman feels strong and healthy enough to fast, especially during the early part of the pregnancy, she may do so. If she does not feel well enough to fast, Islamic law gives her clear permission to not fast, and to make up the missed fasts later.

Q: Is Ramadan a good time to quit smoking?

Answer: Yes. Smoking is wasteful and seriously injurious to health. Allah has entrusted us with a healthy body, and it is a violation to knowingly and willingly harm it. Ramadan provides a great opportunity to amend many bad habits and smoking is very definitely one of them.

Q: From what age can children fast safely?

Answer: Children are required to fast from the age of puberty, and this not harmful. Fasting prior to this age is tolerated differently depending on the children's general health, nutrition and attitude. Fasting prior to the age of 7 or 8 years is not advisable, although it is a good idea to make young children aware of the practice of fasting in the community around them, and to give them a "taste" of fasting, e.g. for a few hours at a time. It is narrated that the companions would distract young children with toys if they were hungry near the time of iftar, so that they would become accustomed to joining the rest of the community in eating at sunset, rather than eating just before sunset, during Ramadan. (Sahih al-Bukhari).

Q: Can i use an asthma puffer during Ramadan?

Answer: Muslim jurists differ on this issue. Some leading jurists argue that using an asthma inhaler is not classified as eating or drinking, and is therefore permissible during fasting. Others argue that because the inhaler provides small amounts of liquid medicine to the lungs, it breaks the fast. Perhaps the former view is stronger, since the inhaler assists with breathing and helps the person to fast, which is to abstain from food, drink and sexual intercourse.

According to the first view, asthmatics may fast and use their inhalers whenever required during fasting.

According to the second view, poorly controlled asthmatics are advised not to fast until good control is achieved. Others may alter their inhalers to those of a longer acting variety such that fasting may be feasible.

Please see your GP for further advice.

Q: Can i swim during fasting?

Answer: Yes, but do not drink the water. Having a bath, shower or swimming has no effect on the fast. Clearly, no water should be swallowed during any of these activities, for that would break the fast.

Q: Can a person fast if he is getting a blood transfusion in hospital?

Answer: No. A person receiving a blood transfusion is advised not to fast, on medical grounds. They may fast on the days when no transfusions are required.

Q: I am on regular medication. Can i still fast?

Answer: If such medication needs to be taken during the time of fasting, you should not fast. If this medication is required as treatment for a short illness, such fasts can be compensated for by fasting other days when well.

If medication is required on a long term basis as part of an on-going illness or condition such as high blood pressure or diabetes, then you may discuss with your GP whether to change your medications to long or short acting variety as appropriate, to enable you to take them outside the time of the fast.

If your disease is unstable or poorly controlled, it is advised not to fast.

Those who are unable to compensate later for missed fasts, due to the long term use of medications, are advised to do fidhya*.

Q: Does a breastfeeding woman have to fast?

Answer: No. Islamic law exempts a breastfeeding mother from fasting. Missed fasts will need to be compensated for by fasting or fidyah* once breastfeeding has ceased.

Q: Can a Muslim patient take tablets, injections, inhalers or patches, whilst fasting?

Answer: Taking tablets invalidates the fast. However, injections, inhalers, patches, ear and eye drops, etc that are not comparable to food and drink do not break the fast, although it is advisable to avoid these if possible due to the difference of opinion amongst Muslim jurists on these issues.

Islamic law exempts the sick from fasting. Please see answer to Question 10 for further details.

Q: Could dehydration become so severe that one has to break the fast?

Answer: Yes. Harmful levels of water loss could occur if the person was poorly hydrated before commencing the fast, and/or made worse by activities during the day and weather conditions. If one produces very little or no urine, feels disorientated and confused, or faints due to dehydration, the fast should be broken in order to re-hydrate oneself.

Islam does not require that you harm yourself in fulfilling the fast. If a fast is broken, it will need to be compensated for by fasting at a later date.

Q: Can I fast whilst i have dialysis?

Answer: Peritoneal dialysis requires the daily usage of fluid bags in the abdomen, and such patients are advised not to fast. Haemodialysis is performed about 3 times a week, and results in significant shifts of fluids and salts within the body.

Such patients are also advised not to fast.

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