Overview on dengue

Dengue or “breakbone” fever affects millions of individuals all over the globe yearly. Due to travel and transport, the condition has reached the global scale.

What are the symptoms of dengue?

Almost half of cases do not have any evident symptoms. The other cases have fever or mild symptoms. The symptomatic disease might be dengue fever or the more dangerous forms such as dengue hemorrhagic fever or dengue shock syndrome.

Usual signs and symptoms

  • Abrupt high fever
  • Headache
  • Severe eye pain
  • Nausea, vomiting or appetite loss
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Heart rate is lower than expected during fever
  • Possibility for swollen lymph nodes or sore throat
  • Platelet and white blood cell counts are low

    Heart rate is lower than expected during fever

After 2-5 days

  • Development of possible rash (flat red-colored spots that are merging) that might itch and peel
  • Rashes can be initially accompanied by fever

Take note that these symptoms typically last between 3-7 days.

Progression of the symptoms

After the manifestation of the initial symptoms, some individuals develop dengue hemorrhagic fever with the following symptoms:

  • Once the fever drops, the warning indications can develop and the blood vessels start to leak
  • Bleeding from the gums, nose or mouth
  • Black tarry stools
  • Vomiting blood or heavy vaginal bleeding
  • Pinpoint red-colored dots (petechiae)
  • Unexplained bruising of the skin

Some individuals develop further symptoms that can progress to dengue shock syndrome which has symptoms such as a drop in the blood pressure and shock (confusion, low blood pressure, minimal urination). Remember that the symptoms of bleeding and shock require immediate medical care.


Many individuals are able to rest, stay properly hydrated and possibly use limited doses of acetaminophen for fever based on the instructions given by the doctor. Medications such as ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen should not be used since these can increase the bleeding.

Hospitalization is required for severe cases with bleeding or shock or other indications of severe illness. Remember that there is no specific treatment for dengue aside from supportive care such as administration of intravenous fluids, blood products, oxygen and electrolytes. With the advancements and accessibility to medical care, the rate of fatality has drastically reduced.

How does dengue spread?

The fever usually starts 4-7 days after being bitten by an infected female mosquito (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus). If the fever starts 2 weeks after exposure, it is not likely dengue.

Remember that mosquitoes can bite even indoors, feed during the day and reproduce in standing or stagnant water. It is vital to utilize insect repellants (DEET), avoid high-risk areas and properly cover up the body to avoid bites.


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