Dr. Saad Al Nuaimi, Senior Consultant at the Emergency Department
Despite this year’s Holy Month of Ramadan falling upon one of the hottest summer months in Qatar, there has been no significant increase in the total number of patients visiting the Emergency Department at Hamad General Hospital (HGH) since the start of Ramadan, according to Dr. Saad Al Nuaimi, Senior Consultant at the Emergency Department.
“We have not recorded any significant difference in the number of patients requiring urgent care either due to fasting in Ramadan or other causes and it is almost comparable with other months of the year,” he noted. However, Dr. Al Nuaimi said there has been a slight change in the flow of patients to the Emergency Department as the number of consultations tends to peak around Iftar until Suhoor time. He added that the types of cases received have been similar to previous years.
“Although, we haven’t seen an unusual influx of patients to the ED during this time, it is usual to see more patients with gastrointestinal complaints due to over-eating and the consumption of unbalanced diets and fizzy and sugary drinks due to fasting. Most cases present with abdominal pain, bloating, vomiting, and constipation,” he highlighted.
“To avoid these conditions, it is recommended to break a fast at Iftar by eating a simple and easily digestible meal such as three pieces of dates, one cup of vegetable soup and drinking half a cup of orange juice. That helps a person’s glucose levels to return to normal and helps to control appetite during the main meal. Any main meal to be consumed later after Magrib prayer should be balanced, consist of fiber rich food and eaten in moderate amounts. Carbonated drinks should be avoided,” Dr. Al Nuaimi stressed.
He noted that some people suffer from constipation due to a lack of physical activity while fasting or due to the consumption of food which is low in or lacking in dietary fiber. He said that dehydration due to fasting may also worsen constipation. To avoid constipation, Dr. Al Nuaimi recommends increasing your intake of water, natural juices, vegetables and fruits and being physically active in the period between Iftar and Suhoor.
According to Dr. Al Nuaimi, other cases being seen which are usually common in Ramadan include headaches, body aches and muscle cramps as well as injuries from domestic and road traffic accidents.
To prevent headaches in those observing fasting during Ramadan, he advised against drinking a lot of caffeinated drinks like coke, coffee or tea at either Iftar or Suhoor to make up for missed hours as a sudden decrease in caffeine can prompt headaches, mood swings and irritability.
He explained that injuries due to road traffic accidents happen especially shortly before Iftar as some people are in a hurry to return home before Magrib Adhan signifying the end of the day’s fasting. “These accidents are mostly due to speeding, lack of concentration, particularly if using a mobile phone (either calling or sending messages while driving) or breaking traffic rules.”
“Domestic accidents could include falls, burns (from hot oil, hot water or a burning stove), as well as wounds resulting from the use of kitchen appliances. “Unfortunately, children are usually the victims of the majority of domestic accidents so it is recommended to keep children away from the kitchen during Iftar meal preparation, and also never leave them unattended. A first aid box should also be available at home,” he advised.
“As Ramadan is being observed this year in summer, a fasting person working outdoors or under direct sunlight may experience dehydration or other heat related illnesses such as heat cramp, heat exhaustion, and in extreme cases heat stroke. It is therefore recommended to drink plenty amount of water between Iftar and Suhoor. To further prevent dehydration, outdoor activities or direct sun exposure should be limited during the fasting hours,” he stressed.
Dr. Al Nuaimi noted that patients with chronic illnesses like diabetes, hypertension and heart diseases might frequently visit the Emergency Department due to a loss of control of blood sugar levels, blood pressure issues or acute exacerbation of cardiac problems due to fasting.
“These conditions could occur if medication is not taken at the correct time or medication is skipped due to fasting. All patients with chronic illnesses should visit their doctor for proper advice about fasting and medication adjustments during this month. They should note that Islamic law has outlined alternatives to fasting for those who cannot fast in Ramadan due to medical or other reasons,” he added.