With the Yom Kippur fast beginning at 4:56 p.m. in Jerusalem – slightly later in the rest of the country – on Tuesday evening, heavy drinkers of coffee, cola, cocoa or non-herbal tea are advised to reduce their intake now to minimize headaches from caffeine withdrawal.

In addition those who plan to fast should begin now to drink more water than usual towards reducing the risk of dehydration and fainting.

Magen David Adom advises drinking eight to 10 glasses of water on the day before the fast.

People who have an acute or chronic medical problem, take medication or have undergone surgery recently, as well as pregnant women should consult with their personal physicians (and rabbis, if they are observant) before Yom Kippur to learn whether they can fast.

Those who take drugs for chronic conditions are usually told not to fast without consulting their doctors. Diabetics dependent on insulin should not stop the injections and fast, doctors say, but they can consider drinking and eating less.

Cancer patients who are undergoing therapy should not fast without approval from their physicians, as they require liquids to alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy.

MDA is already on high alert for the holiest day of the Jewish year on which the first-aid organization usually treats an average of 2,000 people who feel unwell, women in labor or children who suffer fractures while riding on wheeled vehicles in the near-empty streets.

MDA station staff will be boosted with extra paramedics, medics, ambulance drivers and mobile intensive care unit personnel during the holiday. They will also be equipped with defibrillators for shocking hearts of people with cardiac arrest back to life.

The first aid emergency service also urges parents to supervise children riding on bicycles, roller blades, skates and skateboards so they do not risk being hit by a vehicle or falling.

About 200 children are injured by passing vehicles each year nevertheless. This is five times the usual accident rate for a 24-hour period.

Children should be supervised and wear helmets, as well as knee and elbow protectors. If they go out at night, they should wear light-colored clothing and have reflective tapes on their bikes.

Parents should dial 101 if a medical emergency occurs.

Blood donations are currently requested, as blood supplies always decline during the holidays when people are out of their routines.

Clinical dietitians at Schneider Children’s Medical Center in Petah Tikva advise eating a number of small meals on Tuesday instead of one large pre-fast meal. These should be well balanced, including protein (such as eggs, fish, chicken and tuna), sources of sugar (such as breads and pasta) and vegetables.

The last meal before the fast should include “slow-release” complex carbohydrates, such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, pasta, potatoes, couscous, corn, whole-grain rice, sweet potato, cracked wheat and pulses.

MDA urges taking special care when eating fish during the pre-fast meal. Bones can easily get stuck in the trachea, and this can be particularly dangerous to younger children who do not have a well-developed swallowing mechanism.

If during the fast your blood pressure or blood sugar falls significantly and you feel very weak and dizzy, you may need to drink and/or eat a small amount and then rest until you feel better. If you continue to feel very weak or generally ill, seek immediate medical attention.

Experts agree that the optimal way to end the fast is to drink a couple of glasses of water or a sugared drink. The first meal of solid food should be a light one.

If you are still hungry, wait an hour or two after the light meal. Eating too quickly or too much after a fast can cause abdominal pain and sometimes even vomiting.

The 25-hour fast ends at 6:06 p.m. (in Jerusalem) on Wednesday.

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