Here are some frequently asked health questions about fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.
The answers have been put together by medical experts and Islamic scholars and researchers.
Should a person with diabetes fast?
People who have their diabetes under control, either by their diet or using tablets, may fast. However, their GP may require them to change their medication to help them take tablets outside fasting times. Those who need insulin to control their diabetes should not fast.
I get severe migraines when I don’t eat and they get worse when I fast. Should I fast?
People with uncontrolled migraines should not fast. However, managing your migraines is possible with the right medicine and with changes to the person’s lifestyle. Ask your GP for further advice on controlling your migraines.
Should a person with high or low blood pressure fast?
People with well-controlled high blood pressure may fast. Their GP may require a change to their medicine to help them take tablets outside fasting times. Someone with low blood pressure who is otherwise well and healthy may fast. They must drink enough fluid and have enough salt.
Is fasting harmful when a woman is expecting a baby? Must pregnant women fast?
There’s medical evidence to show that fasting in pregnancy is not a good idea. 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 doesn’t feel well enough to fast, Islamic law gives her clear permission not to fast, and to make up the missed fasts later. If she is unable to do this, she must perform fidyah (a method of compensation for a missed act of worship).
Is Ramadan a good time to quit smoking?
Yes. Smoking is wasteful and seriously bad for your health. Ramadan is a great opportunity to change many unhealthy habits, and smoking is definitely one of them.
From what age can children fast safely?
Children are required to fast from the age of puberty. It isn’t harmful. Fasting before this age is tolerated differently depending on the child’s general health, nutrition and attitude.
Fasting under the age of seven or eight isn’t advisable. It is a good idea to make children aware of the practice of fasting and to practise fasting for a few hours at a time.
Can I use an asthma inhaler during Ramadan?
Muslim experts differ on this issue. Some say that using an asthma inhaler isn’t the same as eating or drinking, and is therefore permitted during fasting. In their view, people with asthma can fast and use their inhalers whenever they need to.
But other scholars say that the inhaler provides small amounts of liquid medicine to the lungs, so it breaks the fast. They say that people with poor control of their asthma must not fast until good control is achieved. Some people with asthma may opt for longer-acting inhalers so that they can fast. See your GP for further advice.
Can I swim during fasting?
Yes, but do not drink the water. A bath or shower or swimming has no effect on the fast. But no water should be swallowed during any of these activities as that would break the fast.
Can a person fast if they are getting a blood transfusion in hospital?
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.
I am on regular medication. Can I still fast?
If the medicine needs to be taken during fasting, do not fast. If this medication is required as treatment for a short illness, you can compensate for missed fasts by fasting on other days when you are well.
If you are on long-term medication then you could talk to your GP whether to change your medication, so that you can take it outside the time of the fast.
If your disease is unstable or poorly controlled, do not fast. Those who are unable to do the missed fasts later, due to the long-term use of medication, should do fidyah.
Does a breastfeeding woman have to fast?
No. Islamic law says a breastfeeding mother does not have to fast. Missed fasts must be compensated for by fasting or fidyah once breastfeeding has stopped.
Can a Muslim patient take tablets, injections, inhalers or patches while fasting?
Taking tablets breaks the fast. However, injections, inhalers, patches, ear drops and eye drops do not break the fast, as they are not food and drink (though there are differences of opinion among Muslim scholars on these issues). Islamic law says sick people should not fast.
Could dehydration become so bad that you have to break the fast?
Yes. You could have harmful levels of water loss if you were poorly hydrated (not drinking enough water) before the fast. Poor hydration can be made worse by weather conditions, and even everyday activities like walking to walk or housework.
If you produce very little or no urine, feel disorientated and confused, or faint due to dehydration, you must stop fasting and have a drink of water or other fluid. Islam doesn’t require 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.
Can I fast while I have dialysis?
People on peritoneal dialysis must not fast and should perform fidyah. Haemodialysis is performed about three times a week, and causes significant shifts of fluids and salts within the body. Such patients must not fast and should perform fidyah.