How to Protect Your Child From Dengue Fever

Dengue fever in children is becoming common. However, most parents do not recognise its warning signs and symptoms. Here's what you should know about dengue fever prevention and treatment.

By Team ParentCircle

How to Protect Your Child From Dengue Fever

Dengue fever in children is on the rise yet again across the country, especially during the monsoon. States of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Delhi have witnessed a spurt in the number of dengue cases.

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 in children. From less than 60,000 cases in 2009, the number of dengue patients have risen to 188,401 in 2017.

While governments are doing their best to control the spread of dengue, what can we do to safeguard ourselves and protect our children from this life-threatening disease?

To begin with, we should develop awareness about dengue fever symptoms, it's causes, symptoms, warning signs and treatment.

What is Dengue?

Dengue is one of the few deadliest mosquito-borne diseases in India. It is caused by the dengue virus. 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 breed in stagnant water. So, monsoon is the time when incidence of dengue increases.

How does it spread?

The cause of dengue is not the female Aedes aegypti mosquito but the dengue virus. The mosquito only acts as a carrier by transferring the virus from the infected individual to others. 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 should look for when they suspect their child to have dengue. He also speaks about dengue prevention and treatment methods.

How to Protect Your Child From Dengue Fever

Dengue symptoms in children

Usually, children with dengue do not show any unique symptoms. However, younger children show severe symptoms. Dengue fever symptoms show up 6 to 7 days after the infection and last for 3 to 10 days. Some of the symptoms of dengue fever in children 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, leading to Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever and the Dengue Shock Syndrome. The symptoms of these are:

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

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

Dengue treatment for children

It is important to remember that there is no specific medicine or cure for dengue. The only solution is to treat the symptoms. These include:

  • Consuming plenty of fluids like oral rehydration solution, fresh juice, soups and coconut water. This prevents dehydration caused by vomiting and high fever.
  • Taking antipyretics (medication for fever) like Acetaminophen helps decrease pain and fever. Avoid aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen. The risk of bleeding complications increases due to these drugs.
  • Sponging with lukewarm water is advised to reduce the fever.
  • Taking bed rest and eating healthy meals.

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

Symptoms of dengue requiring emergency admission

Admit your child to a hospital if he does not respond to treatment or goes into shock or shows unstable vital signs such as:

  • 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

If the warning signs are ignored and dengue treatment is delayed, 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 the child goes into a shock or is very ill, oxygen support is started
  • Suppositories are used to lower fever and reduce pain
  • Intravenous (IV) fluid and electrolyte replacement is begun 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 protect your child from this deadly disease:

  • 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. So, remove stagnant water lying around your house to prevent the mosquitoes from breeding.
  • Rid your surroundings of things where water can collect and mosquitoes can breed, including old tires, unused buckets, empty flowerpots, coconut shells and so on
  • Pour a little kerosene in stagnant water. Kerosene prevents oxygen from entering the water, thus stopping the mosquitoes from breeding. This also kills any eggs hatched under the water.
  • Apply mosquito repellent creams.
  • Use anti-mosquito spray at home.
  • Use protective nets on windows to keep out mosquitoes.
  • Prevent mosquitoes from entering your house, by keeping the windows closed 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 mosquitoes inhabit dark, cool places.
  • Once in two weeks burn coconut shells or neem leaves to drive 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 at 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 from 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?

About the expert:

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

About the author:

Written by Team ParentCircle on 11 July 2017; updated on 8 October 2019

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