Dengue fever: What parents must know!

Monsoons and dengue fever go hand in hand. Hospitals and clinics get flooded with patients with Dengue fever. Any fever, a parent starts thinking

  • Does my child have dengue fever?

  • Should I check my child's platelet count?

  • Should I admit my child? I don't want to take a chance

  • What can be done to prevent my child getting dengue fever?

Let's answer these questions one by one.

How to suspect dengue fever in a child?

Dengue fever is a fever caused by a virus and like all other viral fevers, dengue fever also has fever, body pain, headache, etc... But dengue fevers are known to have severe body pain, pain behind the eye and headache, highly disproportionate to the fever. Some children can have joint pains and rashes as well. That's the reason dengue fever is also called "breakbone fever".

Our take home message for parents would be, Any fever in Dengue season or post monsoons, don't wait beyond 48 hours before you show to a specialist.

Should I do my child's blood test/platelet counts before going to a doctor?

Not recommended. Dengue fever can have normal platelet counts to start with and dip only after the 3rd or 4th day. So, doing a platelet count to diagnose Dengue fever can sometimes misguide you.

Other blood tests are also available to diagnose dengue fever. But every test has its pros and cons. No test is perfect. So, let a specialist examine and then decide whether blood tests are required and if required, which blood test needs to be done.

Remember, lab tests can never replace a clinical diagnosis to diagnose Dengue fever. In fact, they can give you false surety or cause unnecessary stress. All tests have to be seen in context with how the child is doing clinically.

Should I admit my child? I don't want to take a chance.

Let this decision rest with the specialist. Your anxiety can sometimes contribute to your child getting admitted unnecessarily.

The treatment of Dengue fever is hydration, nutrition, rest and control of fever.

95% patients don't get complicated Dengue fever and may not require admission. Dengue fever recovers on its own, like any other viral fever.

If your doctor finds any complications arising like falling blood pressure, falling platelet count, bleeding anywhere from the body or rising hemoglobin levels, doctor may advise your child to get admitted.

More important in this scenario is staying in touch with the doctor either daily or every alternate day till your child recovers completely. Do not self-medicate or monitor blood tests on your own.

How can one prevent Dengue fever?

Dengue is a modern day illness, caused due to unplanned urban development and housing. Collection of water at stagnant places, post monsoon or otherwise promotes breeding of mosquitoes which carry the Dengue virus. Some steps which you can take are:

  • Look out for places in your society/home/workplace where water gets collected and take appropriate action to prevent it. If necessary, you can inform the local health officials as well

  • Prevent your children from getting mosquito bites by using long sleeved clothing, mosquito repellents, mosquito screens, not only in the night but also during the day

Dengue vaccine is available in some South East Asian countries and expected in India very soon.

Does papaya leaves extract improve platelet counts? I have heard conflicting opinions and am confused.

Yes, a study done recently has proved that having papaya leaf juice or extract available as capsules or syrup does improve platelet count. Improper usage of homemade papaya leaf extract can aggravate the vomiting due to acidity. But oral or IV fluids are the mainstay of treatment and it is not absolutely necessary to give the papaya extract.

If my child gets dengue fever, does that mean he/she is protected for life, like how it is with chicken pox?

No. Dengue is caused by any of 4 viruses called the "dengue viruses." They are related to each other, but are not exactly the same. Getting sick from one type of dengue virus does not protect a person from the others. A person can get dengue fever more than once.

Disclaimer : "The information is based on standard medical guidelines and is purely informative. Not to be used for treatment.”

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