Expert Advice for a Healthy Ramadan 2021 During COVID-19

International SOS shares its health tips for people observing the holy month during the COVID-19 pandemic

Lantern that have moon symbol on white background with a hand holding mask to protect corona or covid-19 virus for the Muslim feast of the holy month of Ramadan Kareem.

The world’s leading health and security services company, International SOS, advises organisations to continue to prioritise the safety and wellbeing of their employees and shares the following advice.

“Ramadan is a very significant and special observation that is shared by many Malaysians every year. However, this year much like last year guidelines on physical distancing, mask wearing, and hand hygiene will still apply. Even though vaccinations against COVID-19 have started in the country we all still need to play an important part in continuing to curb the spread of COVID-19,” shared Dr Chan Yanjun, Medical Director, Malaysia, International SOS.

“As the pandemic situation continues to evolve, the end of Ramadan will once again be a very different experience for many Malaysians, which is why we created our top five tips to hopefully help make it easier for those observing the fast. We would also like to wish all everyone a blessed and safe Ramadan month,”added Dr Chan.

International SOS’ top five tips this Ramadan:

  1. Have adequate rest and sleep – Ramadan will see Muslims around the world observing daytime fasting for a period of 30 days, abstaining from meals and drinks. The fast begins with a light meal known as ‘Sahur’, consumed at dawn before Imsak time, and ends at sunset, when they break the fast with an evening meal of Iftar. Daylight hours during Ramadan average around 12- 16 hours, based on locations in different parts of the world. Ramadan is also a time for increased prayer. However, it is important to aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep during every 24-hour period, even if this is accumulated over several separate periods of rest. A well-rested body and mind will make it easier for you to concentrate at work and have more energy throughout the day.
  2. Stagger your hydration – Thirst can be one of the most challenging symptoms of fasting, leading us to chug plenty of water and liquids as soon as we break our fast and then just before Imsak. However, rehydration should be a cumulative process. The best way to rehydrate fasting bodies and maintain this hydration for longer is to pace your liquid intake by consuming at least 2 litres of water – one or two glasses at a time – between Iftar and Imsak. It also helps to cut down on caffeinated drinks at night, and to top up your liquid intake with soups, fruits and vegetables rich in water, such as cucumbers and watermelon.
  3. Eat healthy and nutritious meals – Fasting will cause a change of habit in eating and your food intake frequency. It is vital to fulfil your vitamin and mineral needs to maintain a strong immune system. Be mindful of your salt and sugar intake. After a full day of fasting, avoid satisfying cravings with soda and energy drinks which are high in sugar. Instead, opt for the unprocessed food such as fruits, and consume complex carbohydrates such as rice, bread and wholegrains alongside vegetables, which will keep you fuller for longer. As for salt intake, it is worth keeping in mind that having moderately savoury foods with water can help you retain some hydration for longer. However, consuming too much salt will have an adverse effect and contribute to thirst and dehydration during the day. Too much salt can affect blood pressure, so go easy on salty snacks such as popcorn and salted nuts at night.
  4. Do more in the morning – Where possible, schedule more difficult tasks requiring greater concentration or physical effort in the morning, when you will have more energy. International SOS encourages businesses each year to schedule important meetings during the first half of the day, when fasting employees will have more energy and will be better able to retain new information.
  5. Don’t stop exercising – Although you may feel more tired and understandably less active while fasting, skipping regular exercise for a full month is unhealthy, particularly as most of your food intake will be consumed at night. Moderate exercise is advisable and will also help you feel less sluggish. Just remember to wait a couple of hours after Iftar before doing an activity.
beautiful muslim woman open her palm and pray before eating

Dr Olivier Barles, Regional Medical Director at International SOS concluded, “Like last year, International SOS still urges people to avoid gatherings and practice social distancing of at least 1- 2 meters (3- 6 feet). People that are COVID-19 positive but that are asymptomatic and fit should isolate at home. They may still be able to fast in Ramadan, but should seek their doctor’s advice. In any case, it is always and particularly important to identify persons at risk of severe form of COVID-19, such as the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions (eg. cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease or cancer), to respect the social distancing and respect hand and general hygiene measures. However, people who are affected by COVID-19 may wish to consider the religious license to break their fast in consultation with their doctor.”

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