Parents advised to monitor fasting kids and adolescents

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Daisy

Parents are cautioned to closely monitor their children and adolescents who wish to fast during Ramadan to ensure their health is not negatively impacted by low intake of food and fluids.

Nada Yaqoub, a dietitian at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), said although children below the age of puberty are exempted from fasting during Ramadan, they can fast a half-day and that the ability to fast all day varies from one individual to another, depending on the physical structure, health condition and the prevailing climatic conditions.

“Low fluid intake due to fasting in hot weather, like in Qatar, may lead to dehydration in children and adolescents. Therefore, it is imperative that they drink plenty of water after sunset,” she said.   

Yaqoub stressed the importance of providing children and adolescents with balanced Iftar meals comprising of carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats. Parents are also advised to make sure that their children consume enough fruits and vegetables to supply them with the necessary vitamins and minerals.

“Suhoor  meals should contain fibre, which lasts longer in the digestive system. They should also contain dairy products for calcium supplement, which children and adolescents need. Beverages such as tea, coffee and carbonated drinks should be avoided as they tend to cause further body dehydration,” she advised.

According to her, Suhoor can be delayed till closer to dawn to reduce the child’s fasting hours and mitigate the risks of dehydration and  a drop in blood glucose levels.

“To help prevent stomach upset after eating, children should avoid eating the Iftar meal quickly. It is ideal to eat and drink gradually while breaking the fast; starting with juice and dates. Parents should provide their fasting children with a variety of dishes so that they will not be bored from eating similar meals repeatedly, Yaqoub suggested.

“Parents should encourage children and adolescents to do some light exercise; however, they should not allow them to participate in excessive physical activities during fasting hours to protect them from dehydration or hypoglycemia,” she cautioned.

Since low intake of food and fluid is a risk factor for hypoglycemia among fasting diabetic patients, children and adolescents with the disease must be closely monitored for signs or symptoms of hypoglycemia or dehydration. Signs of hypoglycemia may include heart palpitations, shakiness, anxiety, sweating, hunger and a tingling sensation around the mouth while severe signs and symptoms of dehydration can include extreme thirst, a lack of urination, shrivelled skin, dizziness and confusion.

“Should any of these signs or symptoms show, the affected children or adolescents must break their fast to avoid further complications. Blood glucose may sometimes drop to a life-threatening level in diabetic children and adolescents. Therefore, these patients must be supervised by a physician and dietitian,” she added.

As part of its commitment to providing the safest, most effective and compassionate care, HMC recently launched a diabetes public awareness campaign.

Tips and information about living well with diabetes during Ramadan, and throughout the rest of the year, are available at diabetes.hamad.qa.