“Rise in Dengue Cases at Hyderabad Causes Alarm, Several Deaths Reported” the headline in the daily newspaper read. India is facing the worst dengue outbreak currently with the highest cases being registered in Hyderabad alone. It is a matter of deep concern for us because the age group that is affected the most is preschool-aged children. Not because they have a weaker immune system but because the dengue – spreading mosquitoes bite during the day while most kids are playing outdoors; in playgrounds, etc. Note that dengue is caused by the bite of aedes aegypti mosquito. Dengue viruses are spread by mosquitoes that thrive in and near human dwellings.
The disease-causing mosquito breeds in stagnant water. Please be aware that it can breed even in clean water that stagnates for over 24 hours, which means it can breed in your kitchen sink, utensils, plant pots, coolers, etc.
Symptoms/ warning signs:
Dengue in infants and toddlers usually starts with the symptoms of a viral flu-like illness such as high fever which lasts about a week, runny nose, a mild skin rash, cough and pain in the joints. Toddlers may also show decreased enthusiasm. Some kids may develop red and white patchy skin rash, vomiting, loss of appetite, bleeding nose/gums, nausea, etc.
There is no specific cure for dengue fever but there is a treatment for the symptoms. So, if you see any of the above symptoms developing in your child, seek medical help immediately for diagnosis. If the symptoms last longer, hospitalization is essential to alleviate the symptoms.
The usual recovery time is 10 days, however, patients feel weakness and tiredness for up to a month. In some worst cases, it can trigger a serious form of illness called dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF), which is life-threatening.
Dengue lowers platelet levels in the blood and can cause bleeding. It is advised to not give non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen, as they can increase the risk of internal bleeding.
Since there is no vaccine against dengue, the best way to protect your child is to avoid the mosquitoes that spread the virus. Here are a few important preventive measures to fight against dengue fever.
- Keep your house and your surroundings clean to avoid breeding of mosquitoes. Often ignored areas within the house are overwatered indoor plants and water trays of coolers that need to be emptied
- Use mosquito nets while sleeping if your sleeping area is not air conditioned
- Make sure that your kids are dressed up in fully covered clothes and also preferably in light coloured clothes. Avoid dark ones as it attracts mosquitoes
- Sweat and humidity also attract mosquitoes, hence get kids into a shower soon after they return from playing
- Use mosquito repellents to minimize the chances of a mosquito bite
- Don’t let your kids go outside during dusk or dawn, that’s when mosquitoes are most active
- Serve healthy food to boost up your child’s immunity. It becomes easier for the body to fight any kind of infection if the immunity levels are high.
PS: Dengue is not contagious so it can’t spread from person to person. The mosquito becomes infected when it takes the blood of a sick person. The mosquito can then transmit the virus while biting a healthy person.