People struggling with severe post-COVID-19 symptoms as Ramadan approaches are being advised not to fast this year by a United Arab Emirates respiratory system expert.
A spike in cases in the UAE at the end of January has meant that more people are suffering health complications from ‘long COVID’ months later during Ramadan, according to pulmonologist Dr Mohammed Harris.
People who suffered a “severe infection who are hospitalized and sick” should be “a little bit careful with fasting,” Dr Harriss told Al Arabiya English.
For healthy people, however, fasting can actually improve immunity to the virus, he added.
The Sharjah-based respiratory system expert does not expect COVID-19 numbers to increase sharply as they did during Ramadan 2020, which he chalked down to a general increase in case numbers worldwide.
But he does stress the importance of abiding by restrictions on Iftar gatherings and maintaining a healthy diet while fasting in order to keep the virus from spreading.
“Unlike last Ramadan, now we have a lot of patients post-COVID who are weak, immunity-wise,” he said.
“They have lung fibrosis or some other problems in other organs of the body, so for such people, I think it's better not to fast, because they have problems with dehydration.”
For healthy people though, “fasting, as such, should not increase susceptibility to infection, and fasting in some studies has shown that it improves immunity if we do it in a proper way,” Harriss said. This would involve increasing antioxidants intake by eating fruit and vegetables, and foods high in vitamin D, as well as avoiding binge eating, he said.
Feeling optimistic about the way the UAE is handling the spread of the virus with its mass vaccination campaign, Dr Harriss expects Ramadan 2022 to be different.
He said: “I feel like if the natural tendency of the infection goes on by next Ramadan, we will be much better positioned and almost back to our normal life.”