Dengue is making its annual post-monsoon rounds of the capital - the inevitable fate, say some, of one of the most congested and polluted cities of the world. For the denizens of Delhi, the months from August to October are marked by mosquito repellents, netting, fumigation, and 'standing water inspections'. However, children have never been very good at obeying restrictions, and since it is impossible to monitor them round the clock, at times that wily Aedes mosquito manages to find targets despite all precautions. And while the very name 'Dengue' sends most of us into a tizzy of terror, there are measures one can take at home to minimize the damage to the little ones (and adults too).
1. When to Hospitalize
Much as the prospect of Dengue scares us, not every case needs hospitalization. While regular blood tests - every second or third day, as per the doctor's recommendation - are essential to managing the disease, most cases can be managed better at home if the platelets, total leukocyte count (TLC), and packed cell volume (PCV) are within the safe range.
2. Keep Them Hydrated
'Plenty of fluids' is the age-old slogan of healthcare professionals. However, for a Dengue patient 'plenty' is not the standard 2 litres a day, but at least 6 to 8 litres, depending on body weight. And not just plain water - lemon water with salt and sugar is best. Salt and sugar prevent blood pressure and blood sugar from dipping, and the Vitamin C in lemon juice boosts immunity and aids the body in fighting the disease.
The child will, naturally, need to pass urine frequently and get fretful, but you will have to be patient and soothing. Every time she urinates, toxins are being flushed out of her little body and she is getting stronger.
3. Monitor and Feed at Regular Intervals
There is a risk of children with Dengue going into shock due to a drop in blood pressure. When my little one had Dengue a couple of years ago, the doctor told me to monitor her blood pressure every four hours, which is not difficult to do at home with a digital instrument.
Your child will probably have lost his appetite, but he needs food intake every two hours, even if it is a few mouthfuls. Make or get something light that he likes - idlis, pour, up, cornflakes/ muesli, his favourite smoothie or milkshake, even pasta or ice cream! Remember, a child who eats willingly will be a much more manageable patient and combat the disease much better.
4. Immunity-Boosting Foods
Foods which are high in antioxidants, such as pomegranates, pineapples, Kiwi fruit, raw coconut water and sweet lime (mousambi) promote faster recovery by purifying the blood and boosting immunity levels. Try to include a mouthful of any of these with every meal.
5. Herbal Remedies
And then, there are the tried-and-tested herbal remedies to increase platelet count.
Papaya leaves (a bit difficult to source at the peak of the Dengue season) are a sure-fire platelet booster. One papaya leaf, washed, crushed on stone and squeezed, yields one tablespoonful of juice, which is the daily dose for an adult. Your child needs much less, depending on his age and weight. So, it might be best to use half a leaf at a time and store the rest in the fridge, wrapped in a damp cloth.
Gilroy is another reliable remedy. The Gilroy creeper, with its deep green, heart-shaped leaves, is to be found growing abundantly over walls and trees. Just pluck some stems near the base - the ones that are old, thick and a little woody. Crush an inch of it and boil it in a cupful of water till the water is halved. Make your child drink it, a few sips at a time, when it is cooled.
6. Do Not Medicate Without Medical Advice
Dengue is not something to fool around with, and unadvised medication is to be avoided at all costs, even if your child has a high fever and a splitting headache, as the wrong medicine could further aggravate his blood deficiencies and even cause internal haemorrhage. Put an ice pack or cold cloths on his head till you can consult your paediatrician and get him the right medication.
Remember, although most cases of Dengue are, fortunately, not fatal, the disease is a serious one and can leave your child weakened and vulnerable. It is, thus, imperative to nurture her and boost her immunity levels through constant, proper care. It can be a wearing task, though, both physically and emotionally, and it would be more feasible if two or more caregivers took turns.
And while hospitalization may seem, to some, a more attractive option than round-the-clock care at home, it is important to realize that a hospitalized child is necessarily exposed to a large variety of disease germs in her already weakened state. So, unless the findings in the child's blood reports make absolutely necessary to hospitalize, it would be in your child's best interests to nurse her at home through this testing time!