How to Prevent and Treat Dengue Symptoms

Dengue fever is especially prevalent in Malaysia. Here are the symptoms to watch out for and ways to prevent and treat dengue fever with Western medicine and TCM treatments.

Watch out for the dengue symptoms.

If you live in a tropical country like Malaysia, having dengue symptoms or knowing someone who suffers isn’t uncommon. Subsequently, the awareness of the disease within communities is high. It has led to a considerably successful dengue control effort from the Malaysian government in 2021. World Health Organization (WHO) reports that as of late November that year, the cumulative number of cases in the country is 23.457, with 18 deaths. These figures significantly decreased from 85.582 cases and 137 deaths in 2020. This trend is also repeated worldwide. 

However, WHO recognises the limitations of the above data, citing the pandemic as the reason for the hampering of case reporting in several countries. Furthermore, a study revealed that dengue fever cases would only expand throughout the world due to the ever-threatening global warming. 

That’s why it doesn’t hurt to always be on the alert for dengue. Read along as we discuss dengue symptoms, prevention methods and treatments. 

What is Dengue? 

According to WHO, dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection common in warm, tropical climates. It is caused by the dengue virus, known as DENV. The virus itself has four serotypes or variations, namely DENV-1, DENV-2, DENV-3 and DENV-4. The different serotypes make it possible for someone to have dengue fever multiple times. 

The virus is transmitted by female mosquitoes of the species Aedes aegypti and, to a lesser extent, Aedes albopictus. This species feeds early in the morning and evening before sunset. However, the mosquitoes are not always the carriers of the dengue virus. Humans can also become carriers for up to seven days since they got infected. When a dengue-free Aedes mosquito feeds on a patient, it will carry the virus and transmit it to the next human it bites.

People living in dense areas are vulnerable to the disease because the mosquitoes breed in objects like buckets, pots, used tyres, drains and other man-made water containers. Moreover, dengue cases tend to peak during and after rainy seasons, especially when there’s heavy flooding. This increase is due to some environmental factors, like humidity, precipitation, high level of mosquito population, etc. 

Dengue Symptoms 

It takes four to seven days for the virus to incubate a person before they start showing symptoms. Even then, most dengue patients are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. 

Overall, the disease progresses in three stages: 

1. Fever Stage 

Symptoms: High fever (38-40°C) for 2 to 7 days, muscle pain, joint pain, pain behind the eyes, headache, skin rashes, vomiting. Patients must do a check-up at the hospital. 

2. Critical stage 

Symptom: Fever drops. Despite appearances, a small number of patients see their conditions deteriorate at this stage. Their level of platelets could fall, leading to internal bleeding, complications and, in some cases, death. WHO refers to this as severe dengue. 

Signs of severe dengue include severe abdominal pain, continuous vomiting, rapid breathing, bleeding gums or nose, fatigue, restlessness, enlarged liver and blood in vomit stool. Health practitioners must take immediate response to prevent fatalities. 

3. Recovery stage 

Following a proper treatment, the healing process then begins. Patients will recover within one to two weeks. 

Researchers have found that when a person gets reinfected by another serotype, they have a bigger chance of developing more severe symptoms. 

Prevention 

Fever is one of the dengue symptoms.
A partial view of a man as he feels a sick, bed-ridden woman’s forehead with one hand and holds a thermometer in another

Since no vaccine has been invented, it is up to us to take preventive measures against dengue. 

What we can do: 

  1. Remove stagnant water. 
  2. Keep the environment hygienic. 
  3. Wear pieces of clothing that can protect the skin from mosquito bites. 
  4. Use mosquito nets or window screens. 
  5. Use mosquito repellents. They can be store-bought or natural, like citronella oil, lemon eucalyptus oil and vanilla. 
  6. Stay away from high-risk areas. 
  7. Grow anti-mosquito plants such as orange jasmine, venus fly trap, night-blooming jasmine, firecracker vine/Spanish flag, citronella, mint, jessamine, pyrethrum. 

How to Manage Dengue Symptoms 

Unless there’s a complication, the symptoms will clear out on their own after enough rest. To break the fever, it’s necessary to stay hydrated or consume paracetamol. Patients should avoid painkillers with blood-thinning effects like aspirin and ibuprofen. 

At times, patients would also seek less conventional methods to treat dengue symptoms through Chinese herbs. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), dengue fever belongs under the warm disease category. Therefore, the treatment eliminates warm pathogens and replenishes nutrients, qi (vital life energy), and blood. 

Warm diseases are divided into these categories: 

1. Surface (Wei) Stage 

Symptoms: Fever, perspiration, headache, redness on the tongue, rapid floating pulse, white coating on the tongue. 

Herbs: Japanese honeysuckle, platycodon root, forsythia, peppermint, kudzu root and lophatherum have been studied for their antiviral properties. You can find most of these herbs in cold and fever relief, which can help ease fever and headache. 

2. Qi Stage 

Symptoms: High fever, excessive perspiration, dry mouth, dark urine, dark red tongue, yellow tongue coating. 

Herbs: Gypsum or Shigao is antipyretic (fever-reducing); raw liquorice root has an anti-inflammatory effect; Baikal skullcap root can inhibit the dengue virus replication; ophiopogon contains main components with pharmacological activities such as anti-inflammation, anti-oxidation and immunomodulation; cape jasmine is an antioxidant. 

3. Nutritive (Ying) Stage 

Symptoms: Fever that escalates at night, insomnia, light spots on the skin, dark red tongue, thready pulse. 

Herbs: Forsythia, honeysuckle, ophiopogon, raw Rehmannia roots can fight inflammatory diseases, salvia root has compounds that possess multipotent pharmacological activities, gentian root or Qin Jiao has a bioactive component that makes it anti-inflammatory. 

4. Blood Stage 

Install a mosquito net to prevent dengue symptoms.
A woman sleeping on a bed, underneath a mosquito net

Symptoms: High fever; restlessness; rashes; bloody vomit, urine and stool. 

Herbs: Raw Rehmannia roots, cape jasmine, white peony root, or Baishao has a therapeutic effect on the immune system and is anti-inflammatory, lalang grass rhizome has several health properties such as immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory. 

A 2011 study showed that papaya leaves extract contains active ingredients that help increase platelets, speeding up dengue patients’ recovery process. 

While treatments for dengue symptoms are readily available and relatively easy, it’s best to avoid the disease altogether. Simple acts like throwing away stagnant water, installing window screens, or growing mosquito-repelling plants will protect yourself and the people around you. 

This is an adaptation of an article, “Dengue Danger”, which first appeared on Eu Yan Sang website.

References

  1. World Health Organization. 2021. Dengue Situation Update Number 634  [Accessed 11 January 2022] 
  2. Science Direct. 2016. Dengue in a changing climate  [Accessed 7 January 2022] 
  3. World Health Organization. 2022. Dengue and Severe Dengue [Accessed 11 January 2022] 
  4. World Health Organization. 2019. Dengue and Severe Dengue [Accessed 11 January 2022] 
  5. Pubmed. 2017. Honeysuckle aqueous extract and induced let-7a suppress dengue virus type 2 replication and pathogenesis  [Accessed 12 January 2022] 
  6. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2014. Platycosides from the Roots of Platycodon grandiflorum and Their Health Benefits  [Accessed 12 January 2022] 
  7. Pubmed. 2017. Antiviral effect of forsythoside A from Forsythia suspensa (Thunb.) Vahl fruit against influenza A virus through reduction of viral M1 protein [Accessed 12 January 2022] 
  8. Pubmed. 2003. Virucidal effect of peppermint oil on the enveloped viruses herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 in vitro [Accessed 12 January 2022] 
  9. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2018. Potent suppression of HIV-1 cell attachment by Kudzu root extract  [Accessed 12 January 2022] 
  10. Research Gate. 2018. Antiviral activity of ethanol extract of Lophatherum gracile against respiratory syncytial virus infection  [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 12 January 2022] 
  11. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2011. Dengue fever treatment with Carica papaya leaves extracts [online]. Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614241/> [Accessed 12 January 2022] 
  12. Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2020. Efficacy, Chemical Constituents, and Pharmacological Actions of Radix Paeoniae Rubra and Radix Paeoniae Alba  [Accessed 12 January 2022] 
  13. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2021. Imperata cylindrica: A Review of Phytochemistry, Pharmacology, and Industrial Applications [Accessed 12 January 2022] 
  14. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2017. Rehmanniae Radix, an Effective Treatment for Patients with Various Inflammatory and Metabolic Diseases: Results from a Review of Korean Publications [Accessed 12 January 2022] 
  15. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2017. Salvia miltiorrhiza: A Potential Red Light to the Development of Cardiovascular Diseases [Accessed 12 January 2022] 
  16. PubMed. 2013. Anti-inflammatory compounds of “Qin-Jiao”, the roots of Gentiana dahurica (Gentianaceae) [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 12 January 2022] 
  17. Bio Med Central. 2020. Reflections on treatment of COVID-19 with traditional Chinese medicine [Accessed 12 January 2022] 
  18. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2017. The anti-inflammatory activity of licorice, a widely used Chinese herb [Accessed 12 January 2022] 
  19. Research Gate. 2013. Extract of Scutellaria baicalensis inhibits dengue virus replication  [Accessed 12 January 2022] 
  20. Pubmed. 2016. Ophiopogon japonicus–A phytochemical, ethnomedicinal and pharmacological review [Accessed 22 January 2022] 
  21. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2015. Gardenia jasminoides extracts and gallic acid inhibit lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation by suppression of JNK2/1 signaling pathways in BV-2 cells [Accessed 12 January 2022] 

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