Thursday, May 17, 2012

Battling Dengue Fever: The Pains and Efforts to Cure the Disease

If you follow my tweets, you probably would have noticed that I had been having a difficult week since my husband got hospitalized. His doctor initially foresaw that my husband would need to stay in the hospital for 3-4 days to cure his Dengue fever. However, the fact was, after 4 days in the hospital, my husband’s condition dropped so his stay in the hospital had to be extended. Spending 6-11 hours a day in the hospital to look after him was my new routines when my husband was sick. I fully understood that I am currently pregnant and not supposed to be too tired, but seriously, it’s just not easy to leave my husband alone in the hospital for most of the time.

To begin the story, let’s talk about the mosquito that is the one and only culprit of Dengue fever. I first learned the rocket science of Dengue fever and its carriers when I was in primary school. Then, I was told that the name of the mosquito that can kill humans or animals with its Dengue virus is called Aedes aegypti and I still vividly remember its name until now. So, when we spot mosquitos with black and white stripe legs and a lyre-like marking on their thorax, we ought to exterminate them immediately. They are Aedes aegypti!

As in my husband case, it seems like an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito (which had just bitten a person with the disease) bit him when we were in Indonesia. The first symptoms of dengue occur about 4-7 days after being bitten and my husband showed all the symptoms exactly on the first day after we were back to Malaysia.

When my husband first showed the Dengue fever symptoms, I thought he was just having flu like me because I myself had been nursing flu since I was in Indonesia. However, as the clock ticked, his acute-flu like high fever worsened. On top of that, he had body aches, chills, diarrhea, vomiting, lower stomach pains, zero appetite, rashes all over his body and red eyes. Pain killers from the doctor in the neighbourhood didn’t help him much and the appearance of the rashes was still strong.

On day 3 since we returned from Indonesia, my husband’s condition was not getting any better at home so his parents made him go to the hospital. When his blood test revealed that the Dengue virus in his blood was reactive and his blood platelet count (thrombocytes) was below normal (150-450); we had to let him get treated in the hospital because dengue fever can be lethal if not treated fast and properly.

During my husband's hospitalization, every day my parents, his parents and I hoped and tried to make his platelet count escalate. As much as we were aware that Dengue virus would make his platelet count drop to some possible lowest points, we attempted to manage the fall to be above 50; otherwise my husband would need to be put in ICU or given blood transfusion. Also, while his doctor had put IV drips on my husband’s to give him enough fluid, we had to force him to drink plenty of liquids to keep his blood cells intact or his blood capillaries would break and he’d bleed.

We had one time when my husband’s condition turned pretty bad in the hospital – his platelet count plunged to its lowest level at only 57 and he had a sudden on-set of high fever. By then, asking my husband to drink plain water or other drinks was like nailing jelly to a wall. Furthermore, his doctor said there is no exact cure for dengue fever but pain killers, total bed rest and lots of water. His body has to fight the dengue virus by itself. When my parents in Indonesia figured that my husband condition went from bad to worse, they thought of taking the first flight to Malaysia on the next day to see him but luckily, I managed to assure them that I still could handle this alone. 

Believe it or not, my Mother-in-Law and I tried to find, make and give all of the following natural remedies and alternative Chinese medicines to my husband to administer his plummeting platelet count. My husband rejected consuming most of the following alternatives because some of them were just too hard to gulp or presented him with some adverse effects post consuming. We learned the below information from my parents, relatives, friends and even the hospital’s nurse as they had successfully treated dengue fever with one or few of the below alternative solutions on top of doctor’s clinical treatment.

  1. Pink Guava Juice – This juice is believed to have properties in cells repairing and high in iron as well as vitamin C. It has been traditionally used for treating dengue fever in Indonesia. I personally think the juice taste is nice but somehow, my husband hates its taste.
  2. Red Dates (hong zhao) and Red Yeast Rice (angkak) Tea – Our family doctor in Indonesia himself suggests us to consume plenty of this tea when battling dengue because this tea can increase platelets. My husband drank red dates’ and honey tea for two days before he refused to drink this tea any more.
  3. Coconut Water – This drink is cooling and replenishes electrolytes, minerals plus other trace minerals lost by the body due to dehydration.
  4. Isotonic Drink – My husband’s doctor and nurses themselves advised my husband repeatedly to take isotonic drink to keep his body dehydrated but he always declined the idea and asked me to bring home or throw away the isotonic drinks I bought for him.
  5. Papaya Leaves’ Juice – It is believed that papaya leaves contain substances responsible for the production of platelets. Papaya leaves' extract is usually used to treat severe dengue fever and possesses incredibly bitter taste. My husband took few sips of this and his platelet counts increased a little bit on the following day.
  6. Bitter gourd and Frog Leg Soup – I am not so sure on the health benefits of this soup but this soup is well-known in Chinese community in Malaysia for controlling dengue fever. This soup is bitter and not easy to drink. My husband vomited twice after consuming this soup.
  7. Crab Soup (Sup Ketam) – One of the hospital nurses suggested us to make this soup for my husband as this soup is rich in protein and commonly used by Malay community here to overcome dengue fever. My Mom-in-Law boiled this soup for my husband but he did not even bother to give it a taste because it’s obviously one smelly soup.
  8. Palm Dates (Kurma) – Dates are high in sugar, zinc, vitamins and cure intestinal disturbances. My Dad suggested me to introduce this to my husband especially since my husband once complained that he had gastric pain due to his poor eating patterns in the hospital. My husband ate dates like a snack and I am not sure if eating these actually contributed to his recovery from dengue fever but my husband got better after eating few dates. In my opinion, food that has been consumed for thousand years, or potentially since the Bible era, like dates - are not eaten for nothing. There must be tons of health benefits from them. Thus, I made my husband eat dates as much as he could.
  9. Fu Fang Compound E-Jiao Jiang – This is a traditional Chinese medicine used for nourishing blood. Based on my Indonesian friends and relatives’ testimonies, their platelet counts when contracting dengue fever almost immediately increased after drinking this medicine - so we tried this medicine on my husband too. This medicine is easy to purchase in most Chinese herbs shops in Indonesia but was not so easy to find in Malaysia. In Seremban, my Mom-in-Law and I eventually found it in Hai-O shop at RM 35.50/box.

Although it was hard to make my husband drink lots of water or eat his food, as his condition improved, he actually drank more water on his own will and could request for specific food when he felt hungry. On the sixth day in the hospital, my husband platelet count was already above 100 but his doctor did not want to release him from the hospital just yet as my husband’s body, especially his hands, were so swollen and reddish. Seemingly, my husband had experienced bleeding underneath his skin which normally only occurs to people with platelet counts below 50. Therefore, his doctor said that he needed to carefully observe my husband in the hospital longer and make sure he doesn’t bleed from his lungs, mouth, nose, etc..

At last, after total of 7 days of hospitalization, my husband platelet count was back to normal range and his fever, chills and body pains lessened. The swells and redness on his hands had somewhat reduced (but not gone at all) and his doctor gave him the green light to rest at home with a note that he has to take his medical leave for at least one more week.

This said I am beyond excited to announce that my sleepless nights and routines of running in and out plus standing by in the hospital for hours were put to an end as of yesterday night. I got my husband back at home with me now, even though at this point he is still not fully recovered yet. He is still red, weak and clearly, much thinner.

Seeing our partner sick and in so much pain was indeed painful but I am glad that everything turned better now. Thank you to my parents, relatives and friends’ for the prayers, advice and well wishes during those difficult times.

To finish this post, as per the advice from an officer of the local Ministry of Health (MoH) who visited us in the hospital on Monday, do remember to remove stagnant clean water in your premises at all times and use mosquitoes spray in your house twice a day to prevent the Aedes Aegypti mosquitos from breeding. Don’t get bitten! By the way, a day after this government officer's visit in the hospital, there was a team sent by MoH spraying mosquito's pesticides around our Seremban house's residential area. Isn't this good?


  1. I am so glad to hear that your husband is back home and on his way to getting back to normal. I live in an area where there is not any pesticides and it seems like there is natures seasons here. One season it was invasion of the flies, this season is now a ton of caterpillars.
    The nutrition information and advice regarding mosquitoes is good to know. Enjoy the day with your spouse finally home.

  2. Hi Tina,

    Thanks for the comment! Season of caterpillars sounds really scary to me. Hope you and your family are coping well the invasion of bugs, etc. there.. Yes, be careful with mosquitoes.


  3. I am very glad to hear that this has turned out well for you and your husband. How scary to go through such unknown procedures and wait so long for recovery. It is awful a small bug like a mosquito can make people so very ill or worse. A couple of years ago there was a big concern for the West Nile Virus carrying mosquito coming to my area. Now, not many talk about it. But they do say to remove the standing water by your home. I live in the desert where we watch out for scorpions and lethal spiders, like black widows and brown recluse.
    I do hope you both get some very good rest now and become refreshed.

    1. Hi Rodeo Bucket. Thanks for your comment. Yes, mosquitoes like Aedes A. can be very deadly - but I think they only breed in tropical areas like where I live now. Wow.. scorpions and lethal spiders sound so scary! Hope you and your family can stay away from them at all times!

  4. Praise god that everything turned out good though there was so much you and the rest of family had to go through. I have had close friends who were done with dengue and we all had to donate blood and get people we knew to do the same.

    Just to share with you on the crab soup - it does not smell and one way of removing the odour is adding turmeric/kunyit powder and some pounded ginger inside. I make this soup for my other half when he is down with fever and it sort of helps him. Take care of yourself not that you have a baby inside you and get enough rest. Will keep in touch with you via your next post.

    1. Hi Nava! Thanks a lot for your comment and tips! It was our first time cooking crab soup and it smelled pretty fishy to me. Thank you for sharing the info on turmeric and ginger powder additions for this soup. Take care!

  5. thank u so mch for the remedies!!!my boyfrnd s suffering 4rm the sem. i hope ur sugetions wil wrk n end my sleepless nites!


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