Our country saw 43,770 cases of dengue fever in the first half of 2017, according to the Department of Health (DOH). While the number is 36.8 percent lower than last year during the same period (69,297 cases were recorded), Metro Manila saw a 24.9 percent rise in reported cases. (Worthy to note: Cases in other regions went down.)
As the DOH urges Filipinos to continue with efforts to prevent the deadly disease, pediatrician Dr. Carmina Delos Reyes advised parents to practice year-round dengue prevention, even after the rainy season. “Dati sa Pilipinas, seasonal ang occurrence ng dengue. Tag-ulan at tag-baha, doon lang ang rise in cases,” she said in a Calpol-sponsored talk on dengue during the Smart Parenting Convention held last July 30.
Now cases are being reported every month of the year. “All year round meron tayong dengue,” said Dr. Delos Reyes who is also an infectious disease specialist and a fellow of the Philippine Pediatric Society.
For parents of young children, preventive measures should be taken because kids are most at risk for severe dengue disease. These include destroying mosquito breeding sites around the home, dressing your child in protective clothing (long sleeves, pants, etc.), and using insect repellent lotion for children 2 months old and above.
It is equally important that parents familiarize themselves with the symptoms of dengue fever since most of it can be mistaken for another viral infection. Dr. Delos Reyes gave the flu as an example. “Parang pareho ng symptoms [dengue fever and flu]. But trangkaso or influenza is always with respiratory symptoms -- laging may sibon, ubo or makating lalamunan.”
Dr. Delos Reyes gave parents a clue to remember and watch out for to help identify the mosquito-related viral disease. “We think of dengue fever if the child has high fever. Pabalik-balik yung lagnat na mataas every four to six hours,” she said. Importantly, often, there is also “no identifying source of infection. So walang ubo. Hindi naglalabas ng plema. Hindi masakit ang pag-ihi -- walang UTI (urinary tract infection),” she said.
The fever can last up to seven days; serious symptoms may appear without the fever afterward. “Kahit may gawin kayo o wala, mawawalan ng lagnat yung bata,” she said. “That’s when the problem sets in.”
If your child has severe dengue, her body will start to show alarming symptoms like bleeding, low blood sugar, and shock. The disease can affect major organs. But, “it starts kapag nawalan na ng lagnat yung bata,” said Dr. Delos Reyes. Doctors closely monitor children after a high fever passes to diagnose or dismiss dengue.
There is no cure for the dengue, but support is given to the patient during the course of the illness. “Kapag lumagpas na tayo sa critical phase, that's when recovery sets in,” she added.
Dr. Delos Reyes stressed paracetamol is the advisable medication to relieve dengue fever. “Paracetamol is recommended by the World Health Organization. We do not give aspirin. We do not give ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. They can further aggravate bleeding in the stomach, so the safest remedy really is to give paracetamol.”
And, give paracetamol to your child only when necessary, she added. “Hindi din natin ina-advice na round the clock ang paracetamol. Bibigay lang natin as needed for fever because dengue can affect a lot of organs including the liver, and paracetamol is metabolized in the liver. So ibibigay lang yung gamot kapag kailangan.”
If you suspect your child has dengue fever, don’t wait for serious symptoms to appear, said Dr. Delos Reyes. If you observe anything unusual with your child, seek medical consultation.