Recently, I had one of the worst weekends ever. It began Friday morning when my son, Juanmi, seemed warmer than usual.
A quick check on the thermometer showed that his temperature was a little above 37.5, but since he was still running around like mad and his appetite was normal, I decided that a little sponge bath and extra hydration would be enough. Sure enough, by lunch time, his temperature was back to normal and until he went to sleep that night, there was nothing out of the ordinary to worry about.
Saturday morning came with a temperature of about 38.3, a picky appetite, a cough with phlegm he couldn’t seem to expel and a continuously dripping nose. I noticed he had a visible mosquito bite, but since his fever was low grade, I wasn’t so worried. Also, despite his condition, he was still up and about, playing and running around the house.
But based on my doctor’s advice, I started giving him the recommended medicines to combat some of his symptoms. The sponge baths were round the clock and yet, his fever persisted. That night, before sleeping, we gave him something to control his fever. I was confident that by morning, he would be fine.
However, when we woke up that Sunday morning, his fever had spiked up to 39, and this time, there was no more energy left in him to run around and play. Without any second thoughts, I rushed him to the emergency room. My biggest fear was that he had contracted dengue from that mosquito bite, which now seemed possible with his high-grade fever.
I’ve always hated going to emergency rooms, but never as much as I did that day when I had my crying and weak little boy in my arms. I don’t know what was worse; watching him cry as the nurses dutifully collected a blood sample from his arm, or waiting in suspense for the results.
Fortunately, the results came back after a while and showed that he did not have dengue. They mentioned that it could be measles and to watch out for rashes or spots, but generally, they were inclined to believe it was just a bad flu virus and that I just had to let it run its course, which shouldn’t last longer than 24-72 hours. To quote a now famous word, “Wha???” All that trouble from a simple flu?!
Before discharge, we were given an information sheet with what to expect and what to do. I proceeded to pay our bill and was surprised with the cost of the dengue test. It was more expensive than I thought it would be, or should be, in a country like ours, where it is so prevalent. No wonder other people are hesitant to get tested at the first sign and end up getting diagnosed too late.
Back home, I gave him his medication as scheduled and sponge baths, but despite my efforts, his fever continued to play between 38.5 and 39. My son’s pediatrician tried to allay my fear of his high temperature by explaining that the fever was actually natural, in the sense that it is the body’s defense mechanism against viruses and bacteria which can’t survive in heated environments.
That gave me a little bit of comfort, but still, it was useless to me when his fever spiked up to 39.3 and he started having chills at one point on Monday morning. I wanted to rush him back to the hospital already because I was worried he would have convulsions, but before we could get out of the house, as predicted, his fever broke and by late afternoon, he was raring to go to the park and play.
While I was truly worried over his viral flu, I am just thankful it wasn’t dengue. But just the same, I decided to up be on guard against this deadly virus because when you really think about it, it can be pretty scary. There is no vaccine for dengue fever (yet). And because it is a virus, there are no antibiotics or specific medicines to treat it, either. So in cases like these, your “best offense is a good defense.”
I started by looking around my home. We’ve always made an effort to get rid of anything mosquitoes can use for breeding, such as empty pots and buckets of water, and so far, there weren’t any places we could see that they could use. I don’t know how safe it is to keep spraying, but we spray our home at night when the kids are in their rooms asleep, and spray their rooms when we know they’ll be out all day.
Just a few days ago, I visited my pregnant friend in her house, and it was decorated with her mom’s big, beautiful antique pots, but each one of them had a hard clear plastic covering on top to prevent water from entering or mosquitoes from turning them into homes.
Sometimes, the problem is beyond your control, such as in the case of one of my mom’s neighbors, who contracted dengue last week together with two of her kids. They think the mosquito may have come from the construction site next door.
I’ve heard people say that dengue mosquitoes bite at dawn, while others say dusk. To be safe, I just assume that they bite all day and all night long. I’ve always put anti-mosquito lotions on the kids before they play in the park, but after that dengue scare, I’ve upped their protection level by making them wear these anti-mosquito bracelets all the time.
A mommy friend recommended I get the Para ’Kito bracelet in the toy stores after that weekend, and so far, it’s been pretty effective with my kids. It’s actually a pellet that you slip into bracelet bands or clips, and a box lasts about a month. Adriana likes the pink hearts on her bracelet (obviously) and since Juanmi hates wearing anything (he’ll happily run around without any clothes on if I let him), I got the clip instead so I can attach it to his belt hook without him noticing. Also, it’s made from all natural ingredients and doesn’t actually touch their skin, so I have one less thing to worry about.
And speaking of worrying, I’ve listed down the actual symptoms of dengue that you should watch out for when trying to figure out if your child has dengue or just an ordinary flu. I still believe that a consultation with your doctor is the best, but just in case you can’t go for a while, here are some things to watch out for, especially if your child develops three or more of the following symptoms together.
1. Sudden high grade fevers, which break and then return within a day or two
5. Joint and muscle pains
6. Abdominal pain
7. Bloody stool
10. Mouth and nose bleeding
On Feb. 23, the Department of Health website listed the nationwide cases of dengue to be at 1,75,3 but with current attempts at an early dengue information drive, they believe that 2012 will see a drop in cases, which would definitely be a relief for every mom, or everyone for that matter.
In the meantime, until dengue disappears completely from our vocabulary, we’ll just have to keep our guards up and do our best to prevent it from hitting our children.