Campaign aims to increase public awareness about healthy practices during holy month, especially those on medications
The Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA) has relaunched its successful awareness campaign, “My Medication in Ramadan”. The campaign rolls out every year during the holy month of Ramadan to increase public awareness of the need to be aware of your health status while fasting and, if taking medication, to take it in accordance with their physician’s and pharmacist’s instructions.
The campaign also aims to raise awareness amongst the public about the optimal use of medication during the holy month and how to avoid any negative reactions in the use of medication during fasting. The campaign also promotes the message of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and avoiding complications that may result from fasting, particular for those who have certain diseases which may make them more vulnerable.
A team of pharmacists will be present at SEHA”s various hospitals to communicate with the public, especially those with medical issues, answer their questions and inquiries, and introduce them to the best ways for taking their medication during the holy month. The team will also be available to inform the public on how to safely adjust medication intake times. This is especially important for this year since the fasting period will reach nearly 15 hours a day.
“My Medication in Ramadan” focuses on essential health topics for people with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma and epilepsy, as well as pregnant and lactating women. It covers topics about dehydration, fluid loss, thyroid gland disorders, and other health issues that need care and attention during the fasting period.
Commenting on the 2013 Ramadan campaign, SEHA’s Group Director of Marketing and Communications, Ms. Salama Al Mazrouei said, “The goal of SEHA’s Ramadan campaign is to educate the public on how to enjoy this holy month in good health, and enable patients who suffer from certain diseases that need attention and care during the fasting period to navigate the holy month without distress.”
“These campaigns will be supported by SEHA’s many hospitals and clinics, with many activities and events that contribute to the delivery of messages to the public. Brochures will be distributed to raise awareness. SEHA has produced a number of video clips that will play on LCD screens within waiting areas in all SEHA’s hospitals, clinics and at SEHA educational events. SEHA also plans to distribute gifts and organise games and competitions, all of which will serve to educate the public and familiarise them with the objectives and purposes of these campaigns,” Al-Mazrouei added.
She explained that in the past year, nearly 12 thousand people within SEHA’s hospitals benefited from this campaign, either through visits to SEHA’s facilities or by responding to phone inquiries. “About 9 thousand visits and 3 thousand phone calls have been reported, along with nearly 3 thousand follow-ups via SEHA’s social media networks,” Al-Mazrouei stated.
Medical Guidelines and Tips
“My Medication in Ramadan” campaign for the current year 2013 focuses particularly on health issues of concern to many people with chronic health problems and whether it is medically advisable for them to fast. Such people are encouraged to meet with a specialist physician for appropriate guidance about their illness, and whether or not it’s medically advisable for them to fast.
During the campaign, tips and guidelines will be provided to those with chronic conditions, such as diabetes. The campaign reaffirms that safe fasting requires that diabetics exert a great deal of discipline and a commitment to guidelines given to them by their doctors, including monitoring blood sugar at home in order to avoid health complications associated with high or low blood sugar. The diabetic must also be aware of the need to adjust blood sugar level in coordination with doctors and dieticians’ recommendations, the systemisation of food and commitment to diet, the organisation of daily activities and exercises, and the importance of drinking a lot of water.
Information for diabetics in SEHA’s Ramadan campaign provides, as an example, an indication of numerous symptoms of low blood sugar (known clinically as hypoglycaemia) namely, extreme hunger, shivering and trembling, cold sweats, numbness and tingling in the lips and tongue, increased heartbeat, headache, double or blurry vision, difficulty concentrating, slurred speech or difficulty speaking, anxiety, inability to focus, behavioural changes (especially in children), agitation and emotional instability, and loss of consciousness (should severe hypoglycaemia not be treated properly).
High Blood Pressure Patients
If a person is afflicted with high blood pressure (HBP or hypertension) the guidelines of the “My Medication in Ramadan” advise that there is no reason why HBP patients must not complete their fasting, especially if they are experiencing no other complications. There are some simple recommended health tips that HBP patients should consider during fasting, including drinking a lot of fluid when breaking the fast (Iftar time) until abstinence (Imsak time) to avoid dehydration the next day and further complications, reducing salt intake as much as possible and following an appropriate diet in terms of food quality and quantity. They should also engage in physical activity and exercises such as brisk walking for half an hour several times a week and avoid foods and liquids that contain a high percentage of fat or caffeine such as coffee and soft drinks.
It is also advisable to monitor blood pressure several times during the day, especially in the first days of fasting, as a lack of food and fluids during the day may cause low blood pressure (less than 120/80). Consequently, those fasting may experience a general weakness, dizziness, or other symptoms such as the appearance of dark circles under the eyes. In the event of recurrence of these symptoms, patients should consult their doctors who may adjust the patient’s dosage of medication or change the medication to one more appropriate to the patient’s condition.
For those afflicted with asthma, SEHA recommends patients drink lots of water during the night and after breakfast to stay hydrated and stay away from smoky places (including those using incense), avoid foods that can trigger asthmatic attacks such as bananas, eggs and strawberries, avoid stress as much as possible, and stay away from hot rooms or venues that could result in heavy perspiration and eventual dehydration, any of which can aggravate asthmatic response.
The guidelines indicate that in most cases, Ramadan fasting does not cause any problems for the majority of asthma patients, since they can use their inhalers during Suhoor and Iftar. With regard to inhalers, which are usually blue in colour, patients should use them at any time required during the day in Ramadan, essentially whenever any symptoms of asthma are encountered. It is advisable to consult the Fatwa Authority to learn more about the fasting rule in that case. As for patients who are taking tablets, such as Singulair or Claritin, they should consume them at night, just before bedtime. This also applies to patients with sinusitis.
According to SEHA’s guidelines, epilepsy patients who are on Phenytoin once daily can continue to take this medication in the evening because its therapeutic effectiveness remains for a lengthy period of time in the bloodstream. In the case of Tegretol, which is normally taken twice daily (every 12 hours), patients can continue to take their dosage at Iftar time and at Imsak time. If a patient is on medication that must be taken every 6 or 8 hours per day, it makes it impossible for them to fast because of the need to take a dose of medication during the day. In this case, patients should consult their physician to determine if an alternative medicine, with a longer-term efficacy, can be prescribed.
Fasting for Pregnant Women
Fasting during pregnancy is also amongst the issues that SEHA advises on, with several guidelines and tips for expectant mothers. Pregnant women are advised to break the fast by having a number of small meals instead of one large meal. Particularly keen attention must be paid to the Suhoor meal, which should be delayed as much as possible. It is advisable to drink plenty of fluids – from 8 to 10 glasses of water a day – and to consume dates to relieve constipation. In addition, it is advisable to consume digestible animal proteins, such as chicken, fish and eggs, to increase the consumption of fresh leafy green fruits and vegetables, to reduce the consumption of carbohydrates and fats and to avoid certain foods such as pickles, spices, coffee, tea, soda, and sweets which are common in Ramadan banquets.
According to the guidelines, pregnant women must refrain from fasting and should consult a doctor if they experience any of the following symptoms: dizziness, heart palpitations, severe headache, vision disorders, weakness, or lack of fetal movement (especially during the last stage of pregnancy).
Dehydration during Fasting
In order for people to avoid severe dehydration during Ramadan fasting, SEHA provides the following recommendations: keep away from the heat of the sun and avoid exposure to extreme heat during the day by staying in cool, shaded places as available; use hats for protection from the sun; avoid strenuous physical exertion; drink plenty of water and fluids after Iftar time – bearing in mind that normal dehydration that is likely to occur during fasting can be remedied by drinking from 6 to 9 glasses of water after Iftar time – while avoiding the consumption of tea, coffee and soda, or any drink that contains a high proportion of caffeine and sugar, as these drinks can lead to significant dehydration.
The symptoms of dehydration in adults range from simple to severe, and include general weakness, dizziness, headache, dry throat and swollen tongue, confusion and anxiety, fainting, low urine output, change of urine colour to dark yellow, rapid heartbeat, and thyroid gland disorders.
The “My Medication in Ramadan” campaign will continue throughout the holy month of Ramadan at all 12 SEHA Hospitals and 60 clinics across the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Anyone who wishes more information is invited to stop by any SEHA location for more information and guidance on any health issue of concern.