How to Protect Your Child From Dengue Fever

Rains have brought respite from the heat but the threat of dengue looms large. With dengue fever in children increasing across the country, here are some tips for parents to protect their kids.

By Team ParentCircle

How to Protect Your Child From Dengue Fever

Dengue, the deadly six-letter word every parent fears each time her child is down with fever, especially during the monsoons, is on the rise yet again across the country. This, especially in the states of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Delhi, which have witnessed a steady spurt in the number of dengue cases. With rains showing little signs of slowing down and many residents complaining of sewage mixing with rainwater, the number looks set to rise. Alarming, isn't it?

According to data from the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) and National Health Profile 2018, there has been an alarming increase in dengue cases over the years. From less than 60,000 cases in 2009, cases increased to 188,401 in 2017.

While government bodies are doing their best to control the spread of dengue, what can we as individuals do to safeguard ourselves and protect our children from this life-threatening disease? Being aware of dengue fever symptoms in kids is one to begin with. 

Here’s what you should know.

What is Dengue?

Dengue is one of the few deadliest mosquito-borne diseases, epidemic in India. Dengue is caused by the dengue virus and is spread by mosquitoes. The female Aedes aegypti mosquito, which breeds in stagnant water, transmits the disease from one infected person to another. This mosquito species has earned the name tiger mosquitoes due to the stripes pattern on their abdomen. They live in warm, humid climatic conditions and prosper in stagnant water. This make the disease more common in monsoons. 

Dengue fever cause

The cause of dengue is not the female Aedes aegypti mosquito itself, rather it is the dengue virus in its bloodstream. It acts as a carrier when it bites a person affected with dengue fever and bites other individuals transferring the virus. Children, especially those with low immunity, are at a significant risk of dengue infection.

Paediatrician and Founder of The Pediatric Network, Dr Atish Laddad, describes the symptoms parents need to look for when they suspect their child to have dengue and suggests ways to prevent and treat the disease.

How to Protect Your Child From Dengue Fever

What are the signs and symptoms of dengue fever?

Usually, dengue does not show unique or loud symptoms. Conversely, younger children show severe symptoms. However, symptoms show up after 6 to 7 days of the infection and lasts for 3 to 10 days. Some of the symptoms of dengue in a child are:

  • Sudden rise in temperature
  • Severe headache
  • Nausea
  • Skin rash
  • Muscle pain
  • Cranky behaviour
  • Pain behind eyes
  • Bone pain (dengue was also called backbone fever because of the pain that felt like broken bone)
  • Bleeding from gums or nose (this is due to the drop in the blood platelet count)

In some cases, dengue can become more severe, which leads to Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever and the Dengue Shock Syndrome. Some symptoms for these deadly diseases are:

  • Fall in blood pressure
  • Shock due to bleeding
  • Organ failure
  • Excess blood loss due to tears in blood vessels

Note: Refer your child to a medical practitioner on noticing any of these symptoms.

Dengue fever treatment for child

It is important to remember that there is no specific medicine or cure for dengue. But, there are some ways to help your child’s discomfort. The only solution is to treat the symptoms, which will focus on:

  • Consumption of plenty of fluids like oral rehydration solution, fresh juice, soups and coconut water. This prevents dehydration caused by vomiting and high fever.
  • Antipyretics (medication for fever): Acetaminophen helps decrease pain and fever. Avoid aspirin or other non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen. The risk of bleeding complications increases due to these drugs.
  • Lukewarm sponging is advised to reduce fever.
  • It is very important for your child to take complete bed rest and take healthy meals.

Related content: To know more about protecting your child from dengue, click here.

Symptoms requiring emergency admission

When your child does not respond to initial treatment and goes into shock or shows unstable vital signs, he needs immediate medical attention. Admit him to a hospital if he exhibits any of these symptoms:

  • Bleeding from nose or gums, or from any other site
  • Red or purple spots on the skin
  • Black or bloody stools, nausea or vomiting
  • Severe abdominal pain accompanied by frequent vomiting
  • Breathlessness, lethargy, drowsiness, confusion or seizures
  • Pale, cold or clammy hands and feet

Related video: To know more about managing the disease in children, click here.

Treatment of severe dengue fever

When the warning signs are ignored and dengue treatment is not started quickly enough, your child’s condition may turn serious. This usually happens about 3 to 7 days from the onset of symptoms. Treatment comprises the following:

  • If platelet count decreases, platelet transfusion is recommended
  • If he is in shock or is very ill, he will require oxygen support
  • Suppositories are used to lower fever and reduce pain
  • He will require intravenous (IV) fluid and electrolyte replacement to manage fluid loss, prevent dehydration and maintain blood pressure
  • Blood transfusion may be required to replace blood loss

Dengue fever prevention for babies

Here’s what you can do to ensure your child is protected from the deadly virus-carrying mosquito. Take a look at some tips to keep your child safe from dengue fever:

  • Dengue can be prevented just by avoiding mosquito bites. 
  • Ensure your child is clothed in full pants and long-sleeved shirts.
  •  Mosquitoes thrive in stagnant water, clean up the water lying around your house to avoid mosquito-borne illness.
  • Rid your surroundings of things where water can collect and mosquitoes can breed, including old tires, unused buckets, empty flower pots, coconut shells, etc.
  • For stagnant water, add a little bit of kerosene over the water surface. Kerosene avoids oxygen from entering the water, this prevents mosquitoes from breeding. Further, any eggs hatched under the water will be killed.
  • Apply mosquito repellent creams.
  • Use anti-mosquito spray at home.
  • Use protective nets on your windows to keep out the mosquitoes.
  • Prevent mosquitoes from entering your house, by closing the windows at dawn and dusk (active Aedes mosquito times).
  • Keep areas under the cot, within closets, behind curtains and in bathrooms clean as the dengue-causing mosquito is found in dark, cool places.
  • Once in two weeks burn coconut shells or neem leaves as this may drive the mosquitoes away.
  • Have your house fumigated by pest control.
How to Protect Your Child From Dengue Fever

Quick facts on Dengue fever

  • Getting sick from one dengue virus does not protect a kid from other dengue viruses. A child can get dengue fever more than once.
  • Dengue fever consists of three phases: a febrile phase, a critical phase and a recovery phase.
  • Symptoms include tiredness, rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, small purple spots on the skin, red eyes, joint and muscle pain.

What to do if you have Dengue

  • Stay home, take rest and drink plenty of fluids. Paracetamol is advised for fever and aches. Do NOT take aspirin or ibuprofen.
  • Hydration with intravenous fluids is the mainstay of treatment.
  • Platelet transfusion is rarely needed.

Timely diagnosis and treatment are crucial factors in the recovery of the disease. Ensure you follow these preventive measures and spread the word in your community so that the young and old alike are safeguarded from this disease.

Also read: Are mosquito coils and repellents safe for a baby?

Dr SP Senthil Kumar is Consultant Paediatric, Neonatal and Cardiac Intensivist, Columbia Asia Hospitals, Bangalore

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