There are no specific medications for treating dengue fever. The viral infection usually resolves within a week or two and in the meantime, the illness can be managed using paracetamol to relive pain and fever.
In rare cases, patients go on to develop severe dengue, a fatal outcome that can lead to shock or a sudden fall in blood pressure referred to as dengue shock syndrome. Severe dengue can also lead to organ damage and internal bleeding and this condition is called dengue hemorrhagic fever. Hospitalization is very important in these cases.
Some examples of the treatments advised for dengue infection include:
Plenty of bed rest
Staying well hydrated by drinking lots of water. Alcohol and caffeinated beverages should be avoided.
Paracetamol can be taken to relieve symptoms of pain and fever. Ibuprofen and aspirin, however, should be avoided as these agents can cause internal bleeding in patients with dengue fever.
If someone starts to bleed from the nose or other sites, they may have dengue hemorrhagic fever, in which case they should be hospitalized. In dengue haemorrhagic fever, treatment is aimed at maintaining the patient’s circulating fluid volume. A lowered blood platelet count is responsible for the bleeding symptoms and may be treated with a platelet transfusion.
Recovery may take up to six weeks, during which time the patient may be weak and susceptible to secondary infections. Appropriate rest, nutrition and care is necessary during this period.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc