Your Guide to Identify Dengue Symptoms in Infants
Understanding Dengue Symptoms in Infants: What Parents Should Know
All parents would agree they face the most challenging times when their infants fall sick. And it becomes more difficult because babies cannot express their discomfort. Dengue is one disease that can be easily confused with the flu, and its unpredictable nature can make you feel jittery and nervous. But worry not. Here you will learn about Dengue and how to manage dengue symptoms in infants effectively. So, keep calm, stay vigilant, and read on.
Dengue in Infants
What is Dengue in Infants? How Does it Spread?
Dengue is a viral infection spread by the bite of the Aedes mosquito species that carries the virus. Mosquitoes become infected after biting a person infected with the dengue virus. Stagnant water becomes a breeding ground for dengue-infected mosquitoes. In turn, these infected mosquitoes spread Dengue in infants through mosquito bites.
Why are infants particularly vulnerable to the disease?
Infants have a less developed immune system. They have limited antibodies and cannot fight against an array of infections to which they may be exposed. As a result, they are easily susceptible to infections by viruses, bacteria, etc.
Risk of Dengue in Infants and the Importance of Early Detection
Infants have an immature immune system and cannot fight against infections effectively. Hence, it is imperative to identify early symptoms of Dengue in children and prevent the progression of the disease into a more severe form.
Dengue fever in infants tends to start with a flu-like fever but can soon turn dangerous if left untreated. The symptoms of Dengue fever in children show up only after 4 to 10 days of being bitten by an infected mosquito.[i] Moreover, there is no specific treatment or medication for Dengue. So close monitoring of the dengue symptoms in kids and timely medical attention can help your infant recover sooner. WHO states, "Early detection of disease progression associated with severe Dengue, and access to proper medical care lowers fatality rates of severe Dengue to below 1%[ii]. "
Common Symptoms of Dengue Fever in Infants
Generally, dengue fever causes flu-like[iii] symptoms. But infants cannot voice their concerns or joint or muscle pain. Hence, if your baby develops a fever, it is essential to closely monitor him and check out for the following symptoms of dengue fever in infants:
High fever – It is one of the first dengue symptoms in kids. The fever can go as high as 40°C / 104°F.
Rashes – Infants with dengue fever can develop rash anywhere on the body. The rash appears as flat or slightly raised small red spots. It might affect large areas of your baby's body.
Vomiting and Diarrhea – If your baby vomits more than three times a day, you should consult a medical practitioner immediately. Vomiting and diarrhoea lead to dehydration which can result in serious complications.
Reduced Appetite - When sick, babies become fussy and refuse to eat, which could make them weak and tired.
Irritability - Infants with dengue fever become irritable because of the discomfort caused by fever, headache, and joint and muscle pain. This may result in clinginess and crankiness.
Bleeding from gums or nose – In severe cases of Dengue, an infant's nose and gums may start bleeding.
Rapid Breathing – Few infants may experience difficulty breathing and start coughing or wheezing.
Stages of Dengue for Baby
Dengue fever typically progresses through 3 stages. It can be asymptomatic or mild and can even become a severe disease. The three stages of Dengue for a baby are as follows:
It is the first phase of Dengue, where fever lasts 2-7 days. The infant experiences high fever and other symptoms like crankiness due to joint and muscle pains, rashes, vomiting, and diarrhoea.
Warning signs and symptoms of Dengue in a child to avoid progression to severe Dengue: If your infant is persistently vomiting, breathing heavily, and having bleeding gums, then seek immediate medical attention to prevent further complications.
Critical Phase or Severe Dengue
During this phase, you will notice a drop in temperature and dengue symptoms in kids might appear to be improving. But, it is essential to observe severe complications after 24-48 hours[iv]. These can be blood in the vomit and poo, stool, excessive bleeding of the nose or gums, extreme crankiness, and heavy breathing. During this phase, the doctor might recommend hospitalization to monitor the baby's health closely.
During this phase, the symptoms of dengue fever in the child gradually subside, and the child starts recovering. Still, monitoring your baby's health until they recover entirely closely is advisable.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Dengue in Infants
Diagnosis of Dengue in Infants
Diagnosing Dengue in infants can be challenging as they do not have specific symptoms. In the initial days, your baby will have flu-like symptoms only. But here are a few ways to diagnose Dengue in infants:
Physical examination: Checking for fever and rashes on the baby's body.
Blood Tests: A comprehensive blood test can not only confirm the infection due to the dengue virus but can also detect the severity of the infection. A blood test is recommended after 24 hours of high fever.
Treatment for Dengue in Infants
There is no specific treatment for Dengue [v], but there are ways to ease the symptoms. These include:
Controlling Fever - Paracetamol [vi] and sponge baths help lower the infant's temperature.
Keeping the baby hydrated – Dehydration might occur due to water loss from vomiting and diarrhoea. Breastfeed your infant regularly so their body fluid replenishes, and they get enough nourishment to recover.
Prevention and Management of Dengue in Infants
There is no specific medication to treat Dengue. Hence, protection against mosquito bites is an effective way of preventing Dengue in Infants. Here are a few measures that parents must take to reduce the risk of infection in infants:
Use mosquito nets or screens on the doors and windows of the home. Make the baby sleep under a mosquito net only.
Mosquitoes are highly active at dusk and dawn. Avoid taking your infants out for a stroll during these hours of the day. Cover the baby's stroller or carrier with a mosquito net even when you step out.
Use insect repellent (ideally one containing the DEET[vii]) while leaving the house. In addition to it, dress your infants in long-sleeved clothes with full pants to reduce skin exposure.
Keep your surroundings clean. Avoid accumulation of water and regularly disinfect the area using Dettol Antisceptic Products. It ensures that your surroundings do not turn into breeding grounds for Aedes mosquitoes.
Follow personal hygiene practices. When babies catch the dengue virus, their immunity further weakens, making them even more susceptible to other infections. Hence, you must regularly clean your baby's clothes and toys and sanitize them too. Wash your hands with Dettol liquid hand wash before feeding or handling the baby.
Quick Tips for Parents to Deal with Dengue Fever in Infants at Home
Depending on the symptoms, your child might suffer from mild or severe Dengue. The initial symptoms are fever and weakness, but you should stay in touch with the medical practitioner to avoid any potential risks associated with Dengue. Here are a few tips that can help alleviate your infant's discomfort:
Keep the baby comfortable to manage fever: Loose-fitted cotton clothes keep the baby comfortable. Also, their room should be well-ventilated to help regulate their body temperature.
Closely monitor for symptoms of Dengue: It is crucial to monitor the body temperature and watch for signs of bleeding gums or blood in poo stool If you observe any severity, inform a doctor immediately.
Keep the baby hydrated: Check for signs of dehydration like chapping lips, dry mouth, absence of tears when the baby cries, and reduced frequency of urination. Continue breastfeeding your infant and offer healthy fluids like fruit juices, and soups, to keep the baby well-hydrated and nourished.
Do Not Panic: Your baby's bleeding nose or high temperature of 104°F might increase your anxiety levels. But maintain your calm. Only a calm and happy parent can soothe a cranky baby with dengue fever.
Provide Emotional Support: Hold your baby, massage their limbs, and rock them to sleep. Sing a lullaby and be patient with your baby. Caressing and massaging infants can relieve their muscle pain.
Future Developments in Treatments and Vaccinations for Dengue in Infants
Regarding Dengue, people still say – 'Prevention is better than cure.' Preventing a mosquito bite is the best way to avoid Dengue in infants. But recent advancements in medical science have led to the approval of the Dengvaxia vaccine to control and prevent Dengue. According to WHO, 'It can be used in individuals 9-45 years of age living in endemic areas and is now licensed in 20 countries.[viii]' There are many precautions that must be followed before administering the vaccine. Some medicines and vaccines are still in trial, and we can soon expect positive outcomes.
To this date, vaccines for infants have not been developed. So, if your baby has developed a fever, watch for dengue symptoms in infants. Taking preventive measures and following the doctor's advice will ensure a speedy recovery of your baby.
[i] Symptoms of Dengue, National Health Service, UK <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dengue/>
[ii] Key Facts, Dengue and Severe Dengue, World Health Organization <https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dengue-and-severe-dengue>
[iii] Symptoms of Dengue, National Health Service, UK <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dengue/>
[iv] Severe Dengue, National Health Service, UK <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dengue/>
[v] Treatments for Dengue, National Health Service, UK <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dengue/>
[vi] Treatments for Dengue, National Health Service, UK <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dengue/>
[vii] How to Prevent Dengue, National Health Service, UK <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dengue/>
[viii] Vaccines and immunization: Dengue, World Health Organization, <https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/dengue-vaccines>