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Headaches: The Least of Your Worries in Dengue

Headaches are a common complaint in a wide range of diseases and disorders from cancers to the common cold. While headaches are not fatal in themselves, these should be resolved so as to ease the symptoms (i.e., pain) of the patient.

One such disease wherein headaches are a common complaint is dengue fever.  But headaches are often the least of your worries in a case of dengue so it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.  Keep in mind that dengue fever is not just a simple case of fever – it can be fatal especially in the case of dengue hemorrhagic fever.

Mosquito-borne Disease

Dengue is a disease transmitted by infected mosquitos to humans who must be bitten for one of the four viruses to take root in the body, so to speak.  Its most common vectors in the Western Hemisphere is the Aedes aegypti mosquito although other species  like Aedes albopictus have also been known to cause outbreaks, as is the case in Hawaii (2001).

It is considered as one of the most widespread mosquito-borne diseases in the world – an estimated 100 million cases annually.  Tropical countries are usually the settings for dengue outbreaks although the Western Hemisphere has had its share.

Transmission of dengue fever happens when a mosquito bites a infected person with the virus and then bites another healthy person.  It cannot be spread by direct contact between individuals.

Troubling Symptoms

Dengue fever can easily be diagnosed by doctors using a combination of physical examination (i.e., history of symptoms) and blood tests (i.e., platelet  count).  The symptoms are troubling in themselves, which means that the patients themselves will want to immediately visit the emergency room.  The most common symptoms of dengue are:

  • Severe headaches.  The bouts of pain are accompanied by other symptoms that dismiss the notion that your health issue is anything but just plain headaches.
  • Severe pain behind the eyes
  • Severe pain in the joints, muscles and bones
  • High fever
  • Rashes
  • Mild bleeding in the nose and gums
  • Easy bruising

Dengue hemorrhagic fever is the most severe case of dengue.  Usually, the fever lasts for 2-7 days with extreme highs and lows.  But when the fever subsides, don’t think that everything will be alright because it is, in fact, the start of the 24- to 48-hour period when the risk for hemorrhage is at its highest.

Severe headaches notwithstanding, this period is characterized by persistent vomiting, difficulty in breathing, and severe abdominal pain.  But that’s not all – the smallest blood vessels become severely permeable, which allows the blood’s fluid component to escape the blood vessels in to the pleural cavity and peritoneum.  In layman’s terms, the patient suffers from hemorrhage that, when left untreated, will result in failure of the circulatory system, followed by shock, and ultimately death.  Indeed, severe headaches are the least of your worries in dengue.

While dengue has no specific treatment, doctors take the necessary precautions to avoid complications.  These include the use of analgesics to relieve the pain (aspirin are a big no-no because of its blood diluting effect) as well as instructing patients to get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, and hospitalization for close monitoring of their condition especially when it comes to blood transfusion.

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