Ramadan arrives this year during one of the hottest and most humid months on the calendar. The highest temperature in many decades was recorded in July 2002 at 52.1 Celsius at noon. This year, the average temperature is expected to push towards the mid-40s.
The hours of fasting this Ramadan will also be the longest for several years. The fasting period today (and in the next few days) will be more than 15 hours. It will gradually decline to 14 hours and 40 minutes towards the end of the month. All this will make fasting a more difficult task, even though it is welcomed by Muslims.
It is important, however, to be cautious about the possible impacts of such conditions on health. During fasting, body energy and fluids will be low. Hot, spicy or salty food should be avoided during suhoor. Doctors also recommend eating slow-digesting food, including high-fibre meals, before fasting.
When breaking fast, major food groups should be present on the table, while fried and sweet sugary food and caffeine should be eliminated. Doctors also recommend exercising in the evening after iftar and drinking plenty of water to keep hydrated.
Old and ill people, particularly, should pay more attention to their health and to take medications at night, if required. The Quran exempts sick people from the duty of fasting, but those who want to fast need to learn about the risks that it could pose to their health by consulting their doctors. For example, diabetic patients who want to fast need to be aware of the chances of contracting hypoglycaemia and hyperglycaemia, respectively too-low and too-high blood pressure. And those, more than others, need to consult with their doctors and learn about safe fasting.
Outdoor workers who are fasting probably suffer the most, having to work under the sun in high levels of heat. And so without taking the necessary precautions and having more flexible working hours and shifts, those workers can face serious health implications, such as dehydration and heatstroke.
Starting from today, Muslims fasting during Ramadan face a tough test - namely, not eating for long hours during high temperatures. Making the right choices will undoubtedly help prevent health complications arising.