Regular fasting in children may cause health threats

Muhammad Qasim
Thursday, Mar 30, 2023

Islamabad: Fasting in children may cause dehydration and hypoglycaemia (lowering of glucose in the blood) while frequent fasting in children below 12 years of age can affect their immunity making them more vulnerable to severe infections including diarrhoea and recurrent pneumonia.

A child requires more importantly frequent intakes unlike adults as a significant proportion of food that a child consumes is utilized by the body for growth while a portion of it is needed for activities. The process of metab­olism is faster in children than in adults. The metabolic level in children needs to be normal otherwise it might weaken immunity. Example of it is that malnourished children are more prone to have infections. Regular fasting in children particularly below twelve years of age for a month in Ramazan should not be encouraged as it may cause growth-related problems in them, said President Pakistan Paediatrics Association Federal Branch Professor Dr. Tariq Saeed Sheikh while talking to ‘The News’ on Wednesday.

He added that 14-hour long fasting in children below 10 or 11 years of age may cause serious health problems. A child from six to 12 years of age needs at least 1.5 to two-and-a-half litres of water in a day that he cannot take if fast because of having a small stomach. It is not possible for a child to take large quantity of food or fluids at one time, at ‘Sehar’, like adults, instead he needs small but frequent meals after every three to four hours. Professor Tariq said insufficient intake of food or fluid might affect the growth of a child.

It is important that it has become a common practice in our society that children below 10 years of age do fast off and on following their passion and parents also encourage them. Many health experts say that the practice should be discouraged, as Islamic fasting becomes an obligation on a Muslim when he or she reaches adulthood and there is no need of putting the health of a child at stake due to fasting.

Professor Tariq is of the view that parents should be made aware of the fact that frequent fasting in children below 10 or 11 years of age may affect their mental and physical growth. Observation of a single fast by a child and that too above 10 or 11 years of age, however, could be managed for the sake of satisfaction of the child but that too under regular monitoring, he said. It is important to mention here that a good proportion of the child population in Pakistan is already malnourished and according to health experts, that is why a child below 12 years of age is more vulnerable to have severe deficiency of essential minerals in the body due to fasting.