Reviewed by Dr Nurul Aishah Jamaludin, Physician Lee Shin Wei and Salome Tham
Dengue Fever Symptoms: How to Ease Them Naturally
Published | 6 min read
In addition to medical intervention, address dengue fever symptoms with these natural remedies to help your body fight and recover.
With increased rainfall, the risk of being infected with dengue rises. With over 18,000 cases in Malaysia since the start of 2022, it’s important to recognise and treat dengue fever symptoms at the earliest indication to prevent severe illness.
Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne disease spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Read on to learn more about dengue fever symptoms, possible treatment of symptoms, and prevention tips.
Dengue Fever Symptoms and Phases
Dengue fever has three phases: the febrile phase, the critical phase, and the recovery phase. In the febrile phase, an infected person can register a high fever that could last about a week, with symptoms such as headaches, body aches, fatigue, joint pain, and in some cases, a red rash all over the body.
Since there is no medication to cure dengue fever, the only course of action is to address symptoms. You can take acetaminophen for the fever, frequent hydration, and proper rest and nutrition to help the body fight the infection.
The fever decreases in the critical phase, which could last a couple of days. Still, the disease can worsen with a form of dengue called dengue haemorrhagic fever with severe internal bleeding. This is due to the drastic drop in blood platelets.
This also leads to low blood pressure that might not even register on a blood pressure monitor – something called dengue shock syndrome. Fortunately, with proper and adequate treatment, a patient will eventually enter the recovery phase, where the symptoms finally dissipate, and their vitals return to normal.
Prevention is key in ensuring dengue fever doesn’t become a big problem in your community. Remove stagnant water in your living area because these can become breeding grounds for Aedes mosquitos. If you live in a high-risk area, use mosquito repellent when outdoors and screens and mosquito nets when sleeping. Maintain good health to keep your immune system in tip-top condition.
Dengue Fever in TCM
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Physician Lee Shin Wei, dengue fever belongs to the category of plague. “Plague or febrile illness can be detected in an early phase. It is characterised by rapid and sudden onset. In addition to fever or heat, patients may experience symptoms like dizziness and rash,” she explains.
“When treating this type of illness, TCM recommends removing pathogenic factors and strengthening the body resistance. In the early stage of dengue fever, the treatment mainly focuses on eliminating pathogenic Heat from blood, nourishing yin, and detoxifying the body. Patients must avoid eating spicy food when they are down with dengue fever.
“When a rash appears during the crucial recovery period, the treatment will involve body Heat reduction and detoxification. In the final recovery period, patients are treated with remedies that nourish their qi and yin,” she details.
Physician Lee goes on to further explain that in terms of treatment, TCM treats dengue fever in a holistic manner and prescribes medicines based on the patient’s condition and constitution. “For instance, if the patient’s constitution starts weakening, a TCM practitioner will supplement a moderate amount of medicine that strengthens the body resistance.”
Natural Remedies to Help Alleviate Dengue Fever Symptoms
While seeing a doctor is the most important step to take in dealing with dengue fever symptoms, home rest and treatment are just as important once the doctor and hospital have done what they can. Here are some natural remedies in TCM and other herbal medicines to help alleviate dengue fever symptoms.
Papaya leaf extract
The extract or juice of papaya leaf extract (fan mu gua ye, 番木瓜叶) contains anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immunomodulatory compounds. In a study of 228 patients with dengue fever, the group that received the papaya leaf extract showed significantly much higher platelet count at 40 and 48 hours after oral administration of the remedy. This result has been replicated by other studies as well.
But is it safe? “Clinical studies conducted by the Institute for Medical Research (IMR) have shown that moderate consumption of papaya leaf extract is safe. It can effectively help increase the number of platelets, accelerate the recovery process of dengue fever patients, and avoid further deterioration,” shares nutritionist Salome Tham.
Turmeric (jiang huang, 姜黄) is another common household item in Malaysia and other parts of the region that has medicinal benefits. It also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects when consumed and has been studied for its antiviral potential, including its potential action against the dengue virus.
Turmeric can be consumed as tea or juice, but in Malaysia, it is a common ingredient in the daily cooking of local foods. It shouldn’t be hard to include as part of your diet while nursing a dengue fever.
Guava leaves (fan shi liu ye, 番石榴叶) also have similar effects to raising platelets as well as antiviral potential against the dengue virus. Research has shown that water boiled with guava leaves can raise platelet levels.
Other parts of the guava plant are also chock-full of compounds that can help combat dengue fever. Gallic acid, quercetin, and catechin contain antiviral activity against the dengue virus.
This vegetable is medicinal and has numerous health benefits, such as being antidiabetic. It is in addition to its antiviral, antibacterial, antitumour, antioxidant, and antiulcer properties. In many different herbal medicine traditions, it is considered a cooling and bitter herb that is good for removing pathogenic Heat.
You may have heard that lemongrass (xiang mao, 香茅) essential oil, like citronella, can also be an insect repellent. But did you know that it also has potential antiviral action on the dengue virus and has antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antiprotozoal properties? Fortunately, lemongrass is another ingredient that is commonly used in Malaysian cuisine. It can also be made into tea or juice for consumption.
Natural Repellants to Ward off Mosquitoes
If you’re the type who is susceptible to mosquito bites, try repelling them naturally. Physician Lee recommends aromatic herbs like patchouli (huo xiang, 藿香), boneset (guan ye ze lan, 贯叶泽兰), and mugwort (ai cao, 艾草). These can be made into sachets and used as a repellent.
It’s important to get yourself checked at the clinic or hospital at the earliest appearance of dengue fever symptoms. If you are infected, further tests can confirm the diagnosis to ensure you receive proper treatment. As you go through the phases of the illness, try these natural remedies to help your body regain its health.
- MyHEALTH, Ministry of Health, Malaysia. 2017. What is Dengue. [online]. Available at: <http://denggi.myhealth.gov.my/what-is-dengue/?lang=en> [Accessed 27 July 2022]
- The Star. 2022. Nation records more than 18,000 dengue cases. [online]. Available at: <https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2022/06/11/nation-records-more-than-18000-dengue-cases> [Accessed 27 July 2022]
- Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2013. Carica papaya Leaves Juice Significantly Accelerates the Rate of Increase in Platelet Count among Patients with Dengue Fever and Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever. [online]. Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3638585/> [Accessed 27 July 2022]
- International Journal of Advances in Medicine. 2018. Effect of Carica papaya leaf extract (CPLE) on thrombocytopenia
- among dengue patients of tertiary care hospital, Chitradurga, India. [online]. Available at: <https://www.ijmedicine.com/index.php/ijam/article/view/1158/996> [Accessed 27 July 2022]
- Clinical Complementary Medicine and Pharmacology. 2022. Ayurvedic and Other Herbal Remedies for Dengue: An Update. [online]. Available at: <https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2772371222000067> [Accessed 27 July 2022]
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