First Aid During Ramadan

The Complications of Fasting

Sunset fast breaking picnic during Ramadan
Sunset fast breaking picnic during Ramadan. Krzysztof Dydynski / Getty Images

Ramadan is the holiest month for Islam. Muslim followers mark it by completely fasting during the daylight hours every day of the entire month. Followers will eat a meal before dawn and another after dusk with nothing in between. The sudden change in food and fluid intake can have serious consequences for some participants.


The most common complaints during Ramadan are headaches. No one is quite sure what causes the "first-of-Ramadan headache," but there does seem to be a correlation between caffeine intake pre-Ramadan and headaches during.

Reducing caffeine intake gradually during the two weeks leading into Ramadan seems to ease the headaches.

Dehydration seems to have something to do with the headaches. Very little fluid intake can lead to dehydration, especially on particularly hot days. If untreated, dehydration can lead to fainting or shock (very low blood pressure). The basic treatment for dehydration is drinking water or sports drinks.

Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia)

Most instances of hypoglycemia are related to diabetes. Diabetes is a metabolic condition that leads to increased blood sugar levels. Treatment is aimed at decreasing blood sugar, but many factors can lead to sugar levels dropping too low. The most common factor is not eating. While visits to the emergency room are not uncommon for diabetics, during Ramadan the ages of diabetic patients visiting the emergency room are much younger.

Otherwise healthy people with no history of diabetes can also suffer from low blood sugar from not eating.

Worse, a person with no history of diabetes may not recognize the signs of hypoglycemia.

Hypoglycemia can cause confusion, slurred speech, and fainting. If the blood sugar drops low enough, hypoglycemia can even be fatal. The treatment is food. Simple carbohydrates work the fastest to elevate blood sugar, but complex carbohydrates and protein maintain it.

Peptic Ulcers

Bleeding from peptic ulcers is worse during Ramadan than during other times of the year. Bleeding into the stomach and intestines can lead to shock and possibly death. Bloody or dark bowel movements or vomit can indicate bleeding in the digestive system.

People with evidence of bloody discharge should be seen by a doctor right away. For any signs of shock (weakness, dizziness, confusion), call 911.

Kidney Disease

Fasting during Ramadan may not be good for those with kidney disease. While there's little first aid that can be done for most kidney disease problems, chronic kidney disease patients should check with their doctors before fasting.

The Good News

For patients with other chronic conditions, there is good news. No evidence suggests that folks suffering from cardiac-related disorders or asthma have more problems during Ramadan than any other time of the year. In fact, changes in emergency room visits during Ramadan seem to be limited to the issues listed above.


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El-Wakil H. S., et al."Fasting the month of Ramadan by Muslims: Could it be injurious to their kidneys?" Saudi J Kidney Dis Transpl. Jul-Sep 2007

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