My brush with Dengue

9:08 AM

Except, you don't get brushed by Dengue. No, you get hit by it, hit hard. It rams into you like a speeding truck and leaves you with with the feeling your body actually did go under a truck...for real.

If you were not following me on Twitter or my Facebook page, you probably missed the announcement. I was out of commission last week and some of this week due to being under the lovely spell of the Dengue virus.
Before I continue with my story, two things I want to clarify right away though : It took me nearly 12 years of living in India to get bitten by an infected mosquito. I do all I can to avoid getting bitten. There is no foolproof methods to stay safe from these pesky bloodsuckers. So please, NO advice on how to not get bitten. I already am recovered, I also KNOW the second time you catch Dengue is usually going to be worse...I know.
Second, I KNOW KNOW KNOW about the papaya leaf juice cure. I did NOT do it because papaya is a common cross allergen to latex which I am allergic to. I would have only done the papaya leaf thing if under strict medical supervision, in hospital. Since I did not get hospitalised, I did not do it because an allergic reaction can be more deadly than dengue.
So, keep the comments clean of advices of the two kinds mentioned above...let's see who reads carefully.

So, now that I made my little disclaimer, back to my Dengue story.

It started on the 14th of July. My whole day was uneventful, I took Ishita to the library, then for a walk to the park where I was happy to log 6km of walking. The evening continued nicely, and by about 9pm I told DH that I was calling it a night because I had a rather strong headache and my eyes were burning. Which I thought was from the contact lense and having been up and doing things on my feet the whole day.

This was the first symptom, and is one of the most common Dengue sign : headache and pain behind the eyes.

An hour after announcing I had a headache I was still awake, trying desperately to find a position that didn't I cure pain on all my joints or muscle. Yes it went THAT fast, an hour is all it took for the body pain to reach a debilitating level. I also started feeling cold despite starting to run a fever. I told DH that I was probably going down with a flu like virus, popped a Crocin and tried to get some sleep.
It was broken sleep punctuated by pain that the Crocin never managed to tackle. By the morning my fever was at 102.7 and I could barely walk.
This is when I told DH that it was not a normal virus and I first really suspected Dengue. We waited until Ishita came back from school before heading to the doctor.

Doctor, who sent me right away from a test to rule out Malaria and Dengue along with the first blood count test. We were told that all tests would come back by the evening. Before I left the doctor prescribed stronger paracetamol dosage, a vitamin supplement and the order to DRINK DRINK DRINK. He told DH to make sure there was a supply of juice, water and more important than all : electrolytes for me to tap into. He even told him Gatorade was a good one to turn to.

My kitchen counter was therefore overtaken by the sports drink bottle, along with coconut water bottles and a few juice cartons. It is still so.
By 6pm on Wednesday we knew it wasn't Malaria, and that my white blood cell count was low, and platelets were within normal but could be higher. The dengue report wasn't ready just yet and we had to wait another day to get it. The doctor told me to keep on drinking, keep on resting and come back the next day.

The dengue result came the next evening. Very positive and immediately got DH worried. As for me? I was oddly at peace. The doctor told us the plan: going for a complete blood count test daily to watch for both the white cells and the platelets. As long as my platelets stayed above 45k I was fine to stay home. Note that anything below 150k is low, but still manageable from home. He repeated his order to DRINK DRINK DRINK.

It is super massively important to drink tons when you have dengue. To the point of ending up on the toilet seat every 2 hours. According to the doctor, a well hydrated body makes a huge difference in managing dengue and it's nasty symptoms. They hook people to IV when they get hospitalised, those who stay home must drink like sponges. Food isn't that important, not as important as drinking fluids. During that past week I easily drank 7-8 litres of fluids a day, and at one point I even felt the beginning of a UTI coming because that was still not enough. When you drink that much, trust me your stomach will not want to accommodate food.
I never had nausea, but hunger was down until this past weekend. All I felt like eating were oranges, bananas and pomegranate. That is it! Kid you not, everything else I attempted to ingest tasted like utter crap. My tastebuds were ruined and I decided it was better to follow my own body's lead.

The fever went away on day 3. Leaving me with the body ache from hell (they don't call Dengue breakbone fever for nothing). My platelets dropped to 140k on Friday and my doctor told me I officially entered the "Complication phase". Saturday my count went slightly up at 143k and my doctor was puzzled to see the numbers go up that quickly. He asked me to keep on repeating the tests daily. The tests we took on Sunday only came back this Monday and I had dropped to 130k. But that wasn't the most striking symptom.

In the night of Sunday to Monday I was kept awake. Not by the joint pain, that one left me alone. But by a mad itching of my feet and palms. An itching that made me remember my childhood and coping with chicken pox. An itching WORSE than chicken pox by a mile! An itching that makes you want to cut your hands off and tear your skin to shred.
Sure enough, the skin was starting to look red, blotchy and I was stuck with the typical Dengue rash. Rash which by the way almost always comes toward the END of the infection, never at the start. The doctor prescribed me some anti itching medicine, and told me that the itching usually means the complication phase is about to end soon. That Monday the platelets sank to 99k so he also told me to keep on drinking tons of fluids.

Finally yesterday, my platelets went back up to 104, the rash went away, the white cells count was for the first time since the very start up to normal and the itching was minimal. The doctor announced that as far as things looked, I was entering the recovery phase of Dengue. I can't tell you how elated and happy I was inside. I have one more blood test to go to today to confirm it. But it is the first day I feel somewhat myself again.

Before leaving the doctor's office, he turned to Ishita and told her "Your mom is a fighter you know that?". I don't think she understood what that meant. But I knew.

Dengue affects people differently, some can't avoid being hospitalised, some have almost no symptoms. Some just like me run a fever for a few days and then recover at home, others are put in life threatening scenarios. It is not possible to tell who is going to be affected how. But, young and healthy individuals usually fare better.
I am the type that very rarely fall sick to begin with. Last time I was in bed with a fever was 2 years ago with a mild case of flu. I eat healthy and maintain a healthy level of activity in my daily life. So, there might be a chance that this played in my favour coping with Dengue the way I have.

What is important to know and do when you have Dengue or suspect it is this :

- Report to the doctor as soon as you have an unexplained fever with body ache. Insist on getting tested right away. There are early detection blood tests.

- Immediately start keeping yourself hydrated the instant you have fever. Even if you don't know yet if it is dengue, your body will need the fluids. A 103 degree fever will deplete you of fluids very quickly, don't let that happen. And don't drink too hot fluids, don't encourage the loss of fluids by inducing unnecessary sweating. My doctor was clear that fluids should be had at room temperature.

- If you suspect dengue, DON'T take ibuprofen or aspirin, they can trigger some bleeding. Stick to paracetamol, and paracetamol only. Dengue is a virus, so antibiotics are not to be prescribed. They will not work.

- Dengue doesn't mean you need to panic. Keep calm, have your platelets levels checked daily. Drink plenty of fluids and take ample rest. Panicking won't help.

- It's ok not to feel hungry at all. Trust me it is OK. My doctor stressed it from the start. Food becomes secondary. And in most cases, the appetite is the first thing that will leave you. It WILL come back once your body will feel able to tackle digestion. If all you feel like eating is fruit and crackers, then be it. This is why doctors ask you to drink juice and electrolytes. Mine even prescribed a vitamin supplement from the start.

- The sooner you get checked and monitored for Dengue, the better. Do not delay seeing a doctor.

- Give yourself time. Recovery will take time. This virus pretty much siphon you. Leaves you tired, drained and flat. Don't expect your energy levels to get back to normal right away. It is ok to just lie down and watch TV. The house chores and duties can wait a bit longer, if they can't enlist help.

On these words, I am going to take my own advice and rest. I am in the recovery phase. It will take time, and my priorities are going to lie with my own self for a while. There will be blog posts, but I can't guarantee the type of frequency I had before. Not until I really feel good and back to normal, which as of now isn't.

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  1. Anonymous9:41 AM

    it was awful. i hope ishita is well too. in such situations children are more vulnerable.


    1. Fortunately I was the only one who got bitten by an infected mosquito. And hopefully will remain the only one bitten. Because it is indeed more severe in children than it is in adult. I even got DH to freak out and use mosquito repellent cream on himself for the first time since I know him!
      he usually thinks Odomos is not that important to bother with, not anymore :-)

  2. Anonymous8:44 PM

    By morning how did you guess that it wasn't a normal virus and ended up suspecting dengue?
    If I were you I'd have thought of it as a normal virus and wouldn't even have considered going to the doctor.
    Now I know that high fever should be taken very very seriously else I can end up in a life threatening situation.

    1. I rarely get sick to begin with and even more rarely so with a fever. As I said, the last time I got sick was two years ago with a mild case of the flu. When I get a fever it usually never goes beyond 101 and that is pushing it and I never get chills to the point of having my teeth clacker. So based on that I knew I was dealing with something more than just a virus.
      I didn't even suggest the doctor test me for dengue, he decided that right away after hearing I was feeling cold, had 103 degrees of fever and that it all started with a headache and pain behind the eye. Because dengue apparently starts that way. To him it was enough to get me tested right away. Because in dengue, you can't even expect a rash to show up until AFTER the fever left it seems. The rash comes during the complication phase from what I have been told, experienced myself and read. The earlier you know you are dealing with dengue the better because you will need to drink a ton of fluids right away to minimise the damage.

      But yeah all in all, I knew I was not dealing with a virus simply because I know my body well. Beside that fever did not respond great to Crocin's low dosage, and did nothing at all for the nastier than hell and crippling paint in my body. Another thing I don't get with a normal virus.

  3. O no! ... I hope you are on your way to full recovery. How much ever precaution we might take, all it takes is the bite of one infected mosquito for us to get it.

    Once upon a time, fever never created so much panic as it does today. Today, one has to be extremely cautious and have multiple blood tests done if fever doesn't go within three or four days.

    My wife got dengue two years ago and I had written all that I learnt about the disease in a blog post. Here is the link:

    I am myself recovering from a bout of viral fever now. On Wednesday night, I felt acute pain in my joints and felt feverish. The fever was kept under check with Crosin, but for a few days body pain was too much to bear. Dengue was ruled out. Fever is gone, but the joint pains haven't gone fully yet.

    1. I remember that blog post, I in fact re-read it when I was sick. In my case I didn't even wait 24 hours to consult a doctor, I went after 12 hours because it was such a high fever with such debilitating pain that I knew it was not the normal type of virus. I wanted to rule as much as I could out.
      My doctor told me that this year there are a lot of viral fevers with strong symptoms doing the round too.

    2. Anonymous9:39 AM

      there is something called "chicken gunia" virus which causes similar joint pain. with growing pollution we are facing more variats of viruses.


    3. Yes chikungunia has the same symptoms as Dengue, at the exception of the platelets drop and risk of haemorrhaging fever. Mosquitoes are responsible for the spread of many very aggressive diseases the world over. The worst being that all these mosquito transmitted disease all start with very non specific symptoms such as fever and body ache. If you don't specifically look for theses disease via a blood test you can totally overlook them and only act when it is too late :-(
      When I was reading about dengue, I saw that some only recommend to see a doctor if the fever doesn't go down after 3-4 days. But as my doctor explained, in most Dengue patients the fever is gone in 2-3 days anyway, leaving only a body ache that lingers and could be chalked off to feeling tired from the fever. The infamous rash rarely comes while the patient has fever, it's more likely to come once the fever and the body ache left and the platelets have dropped already. If one waited that long to get tested and didn't drink to the point of running to the bathroom every hour or so, they could easily end up with complications.

      Fortunately in my case the fever was so strong and different from any fever I ever experienced that I decided to go to the doctor right away. If it had been milder, or the pain in my joints didn't leave me in such pain I would have just stayed home and waited until if went away.

  4. Anonymous4:48 AM

    Wow, Cyn! I'm glad your recovering quickly! I was wondering what had happened, and I only thought to check Facebook yesterday. It sounds like it was horrible, especially the bad headache and pain behind the eyes. Do you normally sleep under mosquito nets? Are there a lot of mosquitos year-round, or just during the Monsoon? We normally only have mosquitos in the summer, and this year they have been horrible. We normally go swimming in the pool at night, and they are vicious. I haven't heard the trucks out spraying at night for them, either. I think being healthy ahead of time helped you a lot in your fast recovery. I usually don't get sick much either, and I work in a school with tons of germs and kids who don't wash their hands a lot or cover their mouths when they cough/sneeze. I usually only get sick about once a year, with a 24-hr virus in May. It happens every year. I hope you can take it easy and ease back into things slowly! I'm glad Ishita didn't get it! That is really good luck. Take care of yourself!

    1. Ishita has one of these net you hang from the ceiling, it has proved totally useless, the ceiling fan blow it off very quickly. I haven't bought any other nets because when not in use they take space and trap dust. Plus I have a dog and now a cat that can mess with them.
      Fortunately we don't get a lot of mosquitoes in our area. It's pretty easy to keep my flat mosquito free with just those plug in devices and hit spray during the monsoon. We, or rather Ishita and I use repellent cream and stickers too. DH only started thinking the cream was a good idea after I got bitten and sick.

      It only takes one mosquito to catch dengue, and the fool proof 100% protection doesn't exist. I find it funny that I am catching Dengue now, in the place with the least mosquito problem we ever lived in though. They were far more of a problem in our Navi Mumbai flat or even in Bangalore.

      The biggest problem I have with mosquito control is my maid. She took ages to understand that I want the plug in device on during the day, then still doesn't get that you should not let the water stagnate in dishes, and just last week, right after DH told her I had dengue, she left my sink clogged with a big pool of dirty water in it. When I pointed it out to her she matter of factly told me there was garbage in the pipe and didn't have time to clean it right away. I told her to do it right this second, because with me having dengue we don't want potential mosquito breeding ground in the house. She then did it clean it but not without looking properly exasperated at having to do it.

  5. Take care Cynthia !
    All positive thoughts to you.....

    1. Thank you dear!
      Feeling much better. I still get tired quickly though, but I think that was expected :-)


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