The photo has been used for illustrative purposes.
Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter
Parents who wish their children to fast during the Holy Month of Ramadan should first consult their paediatricians.
Dr Ramsey Mustafa Al Omari said this is the best advice he could give way before the observance of the 30-day fasting, one of the pillars of Islam, and which may start either May 6 or 7.
The Canadian Specialist Hospital paediatrician/neonatologist told Gulf Today: “It is always a good idea to consult the paediatrician first especially for the first timers. This is helpful for both the parents and the children (since the general health of their children must be known).”
Al Omari had noted that according to Islamic scholars, fasting among children should be encouraged “when they reach puberty.” He also noted that as it has been customary, some children fast earlier “after observing their parents, siblings and other relatives.”
Several years back, a mother said she had her children start at age seven so that they imbibe the ritual. On Saturday, a father said his 15-year-old son began fasting when he was seven years old “because this is what we do in our community.”
Al Omari said: “I encourage that parents consult their paediatricians first so that they know what to expect from children fasting, the signs to watch out so that they are prepared to deal with these. There are cases when children should not fast.”
For this, he cited the eating disorders of anorexia (the medical condition of the lack or loss of appetite for food) and bulimia (considered a mental illness whereby the person uncontrollably consumes huge amounts of food and consequently vomits this out intentionally).
Al Omari continued: “Children with psychological problems like depression or anxiety, chronic illnesses and conditions that require ongoing medications may not be able to fast.”
On the red flags as he had mentioned of situations that call for children to take medicines, Al Omari said: “First of all, children who wish to fast for Ramadan should be medically fit and in a condition where fasting would not compromise their health or interfere with any medical treatment.”
It is the paediatrician who could give the best advice should children on medications cease to take these.
For the first-timers, Al Omari said it is best that these children take one step at a time in such a way that “they fast for shorter periods in the beginning, that is half day or a few hours until they become comfortable fasting (until sundown).”
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