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This month, we welcome Ramadan with open arms. The Holy Month of Ramadan teaches us to sympathize with the needy, eat in moderation and practice spirituality in all aspects of our life.
Is your child over 7-8 years of age and ready to fast? How can you make fasting safe for your child and what warning signs you must look out for during a fast?
In this special article, we will discuss your top questions on fasting and tips and guidelines to keep your children healthy when fasting.
Is my child old enough to fast?
In Islam, fasting is not obligatory for children who have not reached puberty. To assess if your child is ready, you must look at different factors such as current weight, development and if your child has any pre-existing conditions.
If your child is underweight or has pre-existing conditions, we recommend consulting with your pediatrician prior to fasting.
How can I make sure my child fasts safely?
In fasting, the body detoxes by getting rid of harmful cells, free radicals, and excess body fat.
As most children don't have as much toxins or fat accumulated, fasting poses a challenge and can be more tiring on children than adults. This is especially the case since children are not yet accustomed to fasting.
To make sure your child fasts safely, you must make sure your child:
· Eats complex carbohydrates and proteins: Complex carbohydrates help release energy slowly during the long hours of fasting. Proteins help fill up your child during the fast. Ideally, your typical suhour meal should include eggs, cheese, whole grain bread and fresh vegetables.
· Drinks water: Hydration is important during suhour and iftar. Drinking enough water ensures your child's body is well hydrated and ready to cope with a long fast.
· Avoids sugary foods during suhoor: Simple sugars upset the body's natural blood sugar levels. This can cause mood swings, cravings and fatigue.
· Avoids caffeinated beverages: Caffeine dehydrates your child's body from much needed water. Caffeinated beverages include sodas, tea and coffee. Avoid giving your child such beverages during Ramadan.
· Eats simple sugars when breaking a fast: Eating dates or drinking fruit juice helps replenish the body's reserves after a long fast. While simple sugars are not advisable during suhour, they are ideal for breaking a fast.
· Eats soup when breaking a fast: Soup is an excellent choice for breaking a fast. As soup is gentle on the stomach, it helps prepare your child's stomach for the incoming meal.
· Avoids greasy and fried foods: Greasy and fried foods are harmful to your child's body both during suhour and iftar. While an adult's stomach may not be as disturbed when consuming such foods in Ramadan, a child's stomach is sensitive and can be affected easily. Avoid such foods to ensure your child does not experience a stomach ache or vomiting during a fast.
What are the signs of dehydration? Should my child break his/her fast?
If your child shows any or a combination of the following symptoms, you must let him/her break the fast immediately with a cup of water to rehydrate:
· Extreme fatigue or lethargy
· Dry or sticky mouth
· Excessive thirst
· Sunken or tired eyes
While fasting naturally induces these symptoms, you can easily assess the degree of dehydration from your child's activity.
A thirsty child will go about playtime with reduced energy. A dehydrated child often will not participate in any playtime and choose to lie down or sleep.
If your child has been sleeping for a long time, check for signs and rehydrate accordingly.
For more nutrition tips and Ramadan recipes, check out our Nutrition Section