Chikungunya & dengue: Signs, treatment, prevention & diet for your kids

Dengue and Chikungunya: Symptoms, treatment, diet and prevention for you and your kids

On 14th September 2016, The Indian Express reported the first dengue death in Mumbai, preceded by 10 victims succumbing to chikungunya in Delhi. That was 14 days ago. Yesterday, on the 27th of September, The Times of India revealed that the two mosquito-borne diseases haven’t abated as they should have. As per its observations, municipal corporations have reported 1,070 cases in Delhi in just the last week, which makes the total number of cases a staggering 3,695.


But what do we do with these numbers? Scare ourselves? Stay up all night worrying because one of our kids was bitten by a mosquito in the park while playing on the swings? Being paranoid helps us in no way. The best course of action we can follow is to be prepared. Understand what the symptoms of chikungunya and dengue are so that we can take steps as soon as we feel we’re likely to have contracted one or the other.


When asked about the difference between chikungunya and dengue symptoms, general physician Dr Shivani Shourie says that the two are quite similar, so much so that chikungunya is misdiagnosed as dengue at times because the latter is much more prevalent. Both diseases are indicated by high-grade fever, headache, muscle and joint pains and rashes. But chikungunya’s joint pains are usually contained to the hands and feet, she says, while the back, arms and legs are more affected in dengue patients. The opposite happens with the rash - dengue contains it within face, arms and legs, but chikungunya rashes spread onto the trunk, arms, legs and palms.


Dr Shourie is very insistent on the fact that you shouldn’t administer dengue or chikungunya treatment on yourself. “In case your child or you are suffering from any of the aforementioned symptoms, it is important to seek medical advice without any delay, as the sooner the diseases are diagnosed, the easier it is to manage them and avoid complications. No attempt must be made to self-medicate,” she emphasises.


Unlike a normal viral fever, these two viruses take much longer to leave you healthy again, so there’s no need to worry if you’re not getting better as quickly as you think you should, as long as you don’t have any complications. If you find unwarranted bleeding or hemorrhaging, you should definitely go straight to the hospital. Otherwise, give chikungunya seven to 10 days to clear, though dengue should last only between two and seven days.


“If you are suffering from either condition, it is important to avoid dehydration by consuming lots of fluids and avoid self-medication for pain as painkillers containing ibuprofen or aspirin can result in bleeding in cases of dengue,” warns Dr Shourie. Eat food that’s easily digestible even if you don’t feel like eating because your body needs to be replenished regularly. “It is also advisable to avoid mosquito bites when you are infected in order to prevent the spread of the disease.”


When you ask her how to prevent chikungunya or dengue, the general physician’s only advice is to prevent the dengue mosquito from biting you or your child. She suggests that you get your kid to wear full-sleeved tops and long pants when s/he goes out to play. The Aedes mosquito, which carries both viruses, usually bites during the morning or at dusk. Using repellent sprays containing DEET, plug-ins and coils, making sure there’s no stagnant water around the house and fitting up your windows and doors with meshes will help you and your family stay out of danger.


Dr Shahana Hamza, a general physician who's also a certified nutritionist, complements this by saying that diets can play a good part in strengthening the immune system. While this doesn’t particularly work towards chikungunya or dengue prevention, eating foods rich in antioxidants will help combat the virus and keep up the platelet count. Lemon, ginger, organic berries, organic cumin, turmeric in warm water, any citrus fruits, seasonal fruits and greens are such superfoods. Eating these and avoiding refined and processed foods will help in your recovery process.


“I have known a lot of patients who have tried well-cleaned papaya leaf juice extract and increased their platelet count, even though there is no research proof,” she says. So, while neither specialist suggests that you try home remedies or follow a rigourous diet for either dengue or chikungunya, you could speak to your own doctor about what you could supplement your meals with.


So cover your body as much as you can when you’re outside the house, eat healthy and sleep well. You have a good chance of escaping the mosquito bite yet.