What to do to protect your little ones from dengue


On Jan. 23 2016, the Health Ministry & National Dengue Control Unit of Sri Lanka made statements to warn the public that as of now there is an outbreak of dengue in the city of Colombo. With 22 days into the new year, there have been 1024 reported cases of dengue this year alone.

Dengue, we all know, can be life threatening if not immediately attended to by a medical professional.

What is Dengue?

‘Dengue is a viral infection transmitted by the bite of an infected female Aedes mosquito. There are four distinct serotypes of the dengue virus (DEN 1, DEN 2, DEN 3 and DEN 4). Symptoms appear in 3–14 days (average 4–7 days) after the infective bite. Dengue fever is a flu-like illness that affects infants, young children and adults.’ – World Health Organization http://www.who.int

In short, dengue is a viral infection, and it can be life threatening if it is not given medical treatment.

What causes dengue?

• Dengue is spread by infected mosquitoes – most commonly the Aedes aegypti mosquito. An infected human is bitten by a mosquito, the infected mosquito then bites another human, and the cycle continues. Plus factors for breeding these mosquitos include a warm and humid climate

• overcrowding and major urban centres

Where can you find Dengue mosquitoes?

• Dengue mosquitoes only live and breed around your house and yard, i.e, urbanized locations as opposed to the great outdoors.

• They like to lay their eggs in pooled water in domestic environments

• They don’t like to fly far (50-200 metres at the most)

• They rest in dark areas inside houses and underneath furniture. You’ll find them under beds, furniture, behind curtains etc.

• They prefer to bite during daylight hours. This means that they are around during school times as well!

Symptoms of dengue fever

The following are a rough guideline to some of the symptoms of dengue, it is strictly advised that you seek professional opinions and treatment with regard to diagnosing and treating dengue.

The exact symptoms you get may depend on your age. In older children, teenagers and adults, the most common symptoms of dengue are:

• a consistent fever that comes on quickly and lasts two to seven days

• a headache – can be severe but usually isn’t

• muscle and joint pain – dengue fever is also known as ‘breakbone fever’

• a red rash that starts on your chest, back or stomach and spreads to your limbs and face

• pain behind your eyes

• feeling sick and vomiting

• a metallic taste in the mouth

• loss of appetite

The symptoms of dengue fever usually begin between five and eight days after you get bitten by an infected mosquito. However, the illness can be so mild that you might not notice any symptoms at all.

Young children with dengue often have a fever with a rash, but other symptoms are minor.

These symptoms can be caused by problems other than dengue fever.

Diagnosis of Dengue

If one has a persistent fever for more that 2 days then one should go for a complete blood checkup (CBC) and a Dengue Antigen test. These blood tests and results should be taken at the earliest to qualified medical professionals, i.e, doctors who will advice you on the best form of treatment.

Ways to Protect You and Your Family against Dengue

Using proper antirepellents, protecting your children and yourself against dengue mosquitoes and making sure that you destroy breeding grounds are very important. Listed below are some ways you can protect your little ones and yourself:

• Apply a good repellent particularly during daylight hours when the dengue mosquitoes are most active. There are many mosquito repellents available that come in sprays, creams, roll-on forms etc. I also find that mosquito repellents that are applied on the skin as opposed to stickers/patches that are to be pasted on clothes are more effective. Please do not take this to mean that stickers/patches are ineffective. They play an important role in repelling mosquitoes, however, alone; they are not as efficient as repellents that are applied on the skin. If you are hesitant to use repellents that have DEET or other chemically formulated ones, there are some excellent herbal sprays available locally that are just as effective.

• Use mosquito coils, plug-in mosquito repellent devices, herbal incense sticks and coils.

• Diffuse citronella oil indoors and outdoors.

• Use surface sprays and herbal infusions under and on the backs of furniture.

• Wear long, loose clothing to help protect yourself from bite. If you are lucky, you might even be able to speak to your school and let your child wear long trousers rather than shorts.

• Use mosquito screens wherever and whenever possible.

• AND, make sure you get rid of any mosquito breeding sites (see below) in your yard

Making sure your outdoor and living areas are not breeding sites:

The first thing about eradicating mosquitoes is about making sure that you do not provide a space for them to breed and live. Start with scouting your backyard, garden and the perimeter of your house.

Remember - Mosquitoes prefer to breed in all sorts of still water held in artificial containers. Running streams and creeks with any water movement or ponds with predators such as fish, frogs, or dragonflies are not good breeding sites for mosquitoes. Mosquitoes need only a few tablespoons of water to breed.

Use the following check list to make sure you are keeping your outdoors mosquito breeding free:

• Roof gutters — Clean out leaves and debris frequently to ensure water flows freely and does not accumulate. If you feel like your roof gutters need adjusting to ensure smooth flow of water, do so.

• Flexible plastic pipes For downspout drainage Grooves in plastic pipes can hold enough water to breed mosquitoes. Treat with a larvicide.

• Buckets, watering cans, drinking glasses, plastic cups, bottle caps, or any trash that can hold water — store indoors or turn over. If trash, recycle or throw away.

• Cans and containers — Throw away, store indoors, turn upside down, drill holes in the bottom, or empty after rain showers.

• Old tyres —Recycle, or store where they won’t collect rainwater. For playground use, drill water drainage holes.

• Birds baths — Change the water or flush out and clean with a garden hose every few days.

• Ornamental ponds — Stock with fish (fish eat mosquito larvae), or filter/aerate the water with a recirculation pump, or treat with a larvicide as needed.

• Puddles and wet, soggy areas — Drain the water, fill with dirt or other landscaping material, add salt or treat the area with a larvicide.

• Potted plants with saucers — Empty saucers or flush out with a garden hose once in a few days.

• Plants that hold water - Turn plant over to dump water every few days.

• Dripping outdoor faucets and window air conditioners — if water puddles, repair faucet.

• Treat your property with a larvicide — keep mosquitoes from breeding.

Remember, once an adult mosquito has emerged from its water-breeding site, air-borne chemical, spraying provides only very temporary relief as is using repellents. It just takes one bite for your child or you to be infected. Properly keeping your immediate outdoors and neighborhood free of mosquito breeding sites is very important. It is equally important to make sure that your child has mosquito repellent on particularly when he is going to school when you are unable to keep a very close eye on him.


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