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Dengue Fever: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Publisher/Author : Pacific Cross

This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)

Dengue fever

Know the basics

What is dengue fever?

Dengue fever is an infectious disease carried by mosquitoes and caused by any of four related dengue viruses. This disease used to be called “break-bone” fever because it sometimes causes severe joint and muscle pain that feels like bones are breaking, hence the name.

Mild dengue fever causes high fever, rash, and muscle and joint pain. A severe form of dengue fever, also called dengue hemorrhagic fever, can cause severe bleeding, a sudden drop in blood pressure (shock) and death.

How common is dengue fever?

Millions of cases of dengue infection occur worldwide each year. It can affect patients at any age. Dengue fever is found mostly during and shortly after the rainy season in tropical and subtropical areas of:

  • Africa;
  • Southeast Asia and China;
  • India;
  • Middle East;
  • Caribbean and Central and South America;
  • Australia and the South and the Central Pacific.

It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of dengue fever?

There are three types of dengue fever: classic dengue, dengue hemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome.

Classic Dengue

Symptoms of typical uncomplicated (classic) dengue usually start with fever within 4 to 7 days after you have been bitten by an infected mosquito and include

  • High fever, up to 105ºF;
  • Severe headache;
  • Retro-orbital (behind the eye) pain;
  • Severe joint and muscle pain;
  • Nausea and vomiting;

The rash may appear over most of your body 3 to 4 days after the fever begins, and then subsides after 1 to 2 days. You may get a second rash a few days later.

Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever

Symptoms of dengue hemorrhagic fever include all of the symptoms of classic dengue plus

  • Marked damage to blood and lymph vessels
  • Bleeding from the nose, gums, or under the skin, causing purplish bruises

This form of dengue disease can cause death.

Dengue Shock Syndrome

Symptoms of dengue shock syndrome–the most severe form of dengue disease–include all of the symptoms of classic dengue and dengue hemorrhagic fever, plus

  • Fluids leaking outside of blood vessels;
  • Massive bleeding;
  • Shock (very low blood pressure).

This form of the disease usually occurs in children (sometimes adults) experiencing their second dengue infection. It is sometimes fatal, especially in children and young adults.

There may be some signs or symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have recently visited a region in which dengue fever is known to occur and you suddenly develop a fever, see your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Know the causes

What causes dengue fever?

Dengue fever is caused by a virus that can spread by a mosquito bite. There are four dengue viruses, each known as virus DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3, and DEN-4. Mosquitos that are from a specific family known as Aedes aegypti orAedes albopictus can carry the virus to infect a person’s blood by a bite and transferring the infected blood to another person. Once you have recovered from dengue fever, you may build immunity to dengue fever but only to that particular strain. There are 4 different virus strains, which means you may be infected again. It is important to identify the signs and get treatment.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for dengue fever?

There are many risk factors for (health condition), such as:

Factors that put you at greater risk of developing dengue fever or a more severe form of the disease include:

  • Living or traveling in tropical areas.Being in tropical and subtropical areas increases your risk of exposure to the virus that causes dengue fever. Especially high-risk areas are Southeast Asia, the western Pacific islands, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Prior infection with a dengue fever virus. Previous infection with a dengue fever virus increases your risk of having severe symptoms if you are infected again.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is dengue fever diagnosed?

Diagnosing dengue fever can be difficult, because its signs and symptoms can be easily confused with those of other diseases — such as malaria, leptospirosis and typhoid fever.

Your doctor will likely ask about your medical and travel history. Be sure to describe international trips in detail, including the countries you visited and the dates, as well as any contact you may have had with mosquitoes.

Certain laboratory tests can detect evidence of the dengue viruses, but test results usually come back too late to help direct treatment decisions.

How is dengue fever treated?

There is no specific treatment for dengue fever, while most people recover within two weeks. It is important to treat the symptoms to avoid complications. Most doctors recommend the following treatment options:

  • Getting plenty of bed rest.
  • Drinking lots of fluids.
  • Taking medicine to reduce fever. Paracetamol (Tylenolâ, Panadolâ) can alleviate pain and reduce fever.
  • Avoid pain relievers that can increase bleeding complications — such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advilâ, Motrinâ) and naproxen sodium (Aleveâ).

For more severe cases, dengue fever can cause shock or hemorrhagic fever that requires more immediate medical attention.

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Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage dengue fever?

You can manage dengue fever with home care. You will need good hydration and pain management. It is important to know a few things before traveling to areas where dengue fever is common. Here are a few tips that can help:

  • Stay in air-conditioned or well-screened housing.It is particularly important to keep mosquitoes out at night.
  • Reschedule outdoor activities.Avoid being outdoors at dawn, dusk and early evening, when more mosquitoes are out.
  • Wear protective clothing.When you go into mosquito-infested areas, wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, socks and shoes.
  • Use mosquito repellent.Permethrin can be applied to your clothing, shoes, camping gear and bed netting. You can also buy clothing made with permethrin already in it. For your skin, use a repellent containing at least a 10 percent concentration of DEET.

Reduce mosquito habitat. The mosquitoes that carry the dengue virus typically live in and around houses, breeding in standing water that can collect in such things as used automobile tires. Reduce the breeding habitat to lower mosquito populations.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.


  • Dengue fever. Accessed July 15, 2016.
  • Dengue fever. Accessed July 15, 2016.
  • Remedies. Accessed July 15, 2016.
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