Dengue Fever in Children: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention

What is dengue fever?

Dengue fever is a viral infection caused by the dengue virus from the flavivirus family. It is transmitted through mosquitoes, specifically Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus.

The virus exists in four distinct serotypes: DENV-1, DENV-2, DENV-3, and DENV-4. Each infection episode leads to lifelong immunity against the specific serotype but offers only partial and temporary protection against the others.

What are the symptoms of dengue fever in children?

Dengue fever typically causes milder symptoms in younger children and those who are infected for the first time. Moderate to severe symptoms may occur in older children, adults, and those who have previously been infected.

The following are some typical symptoms of dengue fever:

  1. Sudden onset of high fever (40°C/104°F)
    • Fever is the most typical sign of dengue.
    • Fever occurs on the 3rd to 14th day after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
    • High fever typically lasts for 2 to 7 days.
    • High fever can cause convulsion in children below 6 years old.
  2. Severe headache 
  3. Pain behind the eyes
  4. Severe pain in the bones, muscle ache, and joint pain
  5. Bodily rash
    • The most tell-tale sign of dengue fever is the rash that often develops and covers most of the body.
    • The rash usually appears on the 3rd and 4th day after the onset of the fever.
  6. Reduced appetite and vomiting

When to visit a doctor if you suspect your child has dengue fever?

If your child develops symptoms and you suspect it is dengue, the first thing to do is to bring your child to get an assessment from a doctor.

The doctor will enquire about your child's medical history and recent travels, especially if your child has recently travelled to a region where dengue fever is prevalent.

To make a diagnosis, a doctor will inspect your child and assess his or her symptoms. A blood sample will then be sent for testing. Diagnosis is made based on your reported symptoms, physical examination, and investigations.

Diagnostic tests

  • Blood test: Antibodies (Dengue IgM) will be detected in the blood.
  • PCR test: This is a virus genetic detection method that can detect dengue virus in the blood.
  • NS1 antigen test: This method can detect this virus in the early stages / fever.

How is dengue fever in children treated?

There is no specific treatment for dengue fever. However, your doctor may advise the following:

  • Let your child has as much bed rest as possible.
  • Your doctor may prescribe paracetamol to help reduce fever and relieve pain caused by dengue fever.
  • To avoid dehydration, milder cases can be mitigated by drinking plenty of water. Watch out for signs of dehydration as well.

Precaution: DO NOT give aspirin, ibuprofen, and antibiotics to your child!

When fever is subsiding, look out for warning signs within 3-7 days after symptoms began.

In some cases, dengue fever can lead to a more serious type of illness among children. This is known as severe dengue or dengue haemorrhagic fever, which is a medical emergency because it can be fatal.

How to prevent dengue fever?

The most effective way to prevent dengue fever is to stay vigilant and avoid mosquito bites. Following are some recommended preventive measures:

  • Use screens for windows and doors and fix broken or damaged windows.
  • Close all windows and doors without screens.
  • When children go outside, they should wear long pants, shoes, socks, and shirts with long sleeves.
  • Children should spend less time outside during the day, particularly at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Additionally, using mosquito repellent when outdoors can also help.

Remember that in the event you suspect your child could have dengue fever, call a doctor right away.

Book an appointment at Pantai Hospitals

Early detection of dengue fever in children makes it easier to treat the condition with effective and appropriate treatment.

A dedicated and expert team of Paediatric specialists at Pantai Hospital is available for consultation to provide the best care and assistance to patients through screening, diagnosis, and treatment.

Get in touch with us to book an appointment today if you have any concerns or questions about dengue fever infection. 

Pantai Hospital has been accredited by the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health (MSQH) for its commitment to patient safety and service quality.

Thank you for your patience