The hot month

I’ve heard from a couple of friends of Muslim background who say the dehydration issue is indeed a problem, and generally ignored.

Deutsche Welle reported a year ago:

More than 1,100 people have already died of dehydration in Pakistan’s scorching temperatures. The risk is made worse because devout Muslims don’t eat or drink anything between sunrise and sunset during Ramadan.

It’s hot in Pakistan. Over the last few days, it’s been as hot as 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) in the shade and thousands of people are being treated in hospitals. Most of the more than 1,100 casualties have been recorded in the port city of Karachi, Pakistani health authorities report. Military and civilian aid organizations have set up dozens of temporary camps to care for victims of dehydration, heatstroke and circulatory collapse.

Faithful Muslims are currently observing Ramadan, which literally means “the hot month.” They don’t eat or drink anything between sunrise and sunset during this time, which puts them especially at risk in the current extreme heat. They are much more likely to suffer from dehydration.

If the body’s fluid levels sink to dangerous lows, it can dry out. “Vessels contract and blood pressure plummets,” Dr. Ulrich Gerth from University Hospital Münster explained. “Blood levels get shaken up because of a lack of electrolytes and important organs don’t get enough blood flow anymore. This can lead to a comatose state and cause irreversible damage.”

But hey, it makes them feel more spiritual.

Until [Ramadan ends], devout believers try to right their fluid balance by drinking copious amounts of water after sundown. But that’s not healthy either. “It’s possible that the body cannot cope with this, depending on its overall condition,” Gerth told DW.

Drinking too much at once can be damaging. It dilutes the body’s electrolytes too much, causing water to be drawn out of cells through their membranes. Gerth says this can lead to cerebral or pulmonary edema in people with existing health conditions.

By now, temperatures in Pakistan have gone down at least a little. And a leading religious scholar in Karachi clarified again that Islam allows the elderly, sick or weak to interrupt fasting in extreme situations.

“People shouldn’t risk their lives for a religious duty,” cleric Mufti Naeem said.

Indeed they shouldn’t, but that means no one should go without water. Water should be excluded from Ramadan altogether.

The situation in Pakistan remains strained, despite the sinking temperatures. Many hospitals are full beyond their capacities and authorities reckon more people will die.

In Karachi, the past week was declared to be “work-free” for everybody, to alleviate the risk a little. But according to Gerth, that was just a drop in the ocean.

“Working less in extreme heat is helpful for sure, but it only mitigates the problem,” he said. “It can’t replace regular hydration.”

God hates human beings.

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