Managing the Causes and Effects

If you happen to wake up in the middle of the night with a migraine that feels like the engine of a fighter plane batting against your retinas, you may be experiencing one of the first symptoms of dengue fever.

After the panicked realisation that your body temperature is approaching that of the Sun, you'll want to fix yourself a nice ice bucket and plonk  it beside your pillow. Don't expect to be moving for the next three days, except to periodically lean over and dunk your boiling, sweaty head into the bucket.

Yes, this will turn your hair into a mangled mess of rat-tails and dreadlocks but don't worry: all you'll need to do is drain an entire bottle of conditioner on it once you’ve regained the physical strength to get to a chemist and back.

Settle into that sweat puddle of a pillow and get comfortable for 3-12 days. You have been blessed with the kiss of a dengue-fever-ridden mosquito.

Where you’re at risk

Dengue fever is prevalent in almost all tropical areas of the world, including South East Asia, Central and South America and parts of Africa. The disease is carried by the aedes aegypti mosquito, which is active throughout the day but mainly bites at dusk or dawn.

Perhaps the most exciting part about being infected is that there's no way to prove the cause of your suffering, as no established diagnosis exists and no vaccine has been invented.

What to expect

Days 1-3:

Fever of up to 50 degrees Celsius

Pain in the occipital & retina

Dizziness and nausea

Pain in the lower back

Loss of appetite

Development of anxiety and/or depression

Days 3-5:

Temporary lowering of body temperature & blood pressure

Temporary relief of some or all symptoms,

Development of a rash on the arms, palms, face, and neck

Days 5-7:

Vomiting and worsened nausea

Aches and muscle soreness

Constipation

Swelling of the palms and extremities

Extreme redness of the face, neck, and ears

Days 7-10:

Fatigue and lethargy

Continued symptoms from days 1-3 & 5-7

Inflamed feet (especially the soles) and palms

Itchiness due to petechiae ("red skin spots")

Stay in bed, dread-head

In my personal experience while teaching English in East Java, dengue fever knocked me out of commission for a total of five nights and six days, during which I experienced every described symptom in the exact order appearing in this article. By day three, the stench of sweat that had soaked into the bed sheets was equally as threatening to my health as the disease itself; hopefully you will have either the physical stability or a friendly caregiver to help you wash your clothes and bedspread.

I personally recommend taking acetaminophen to relieve the fever, which should be readily available at any chemist. Avoid reaching for aspirin. Victims might also consider natural ways to alleviate their suffering.

Natural remedies

Localsmay be able to provide you with natural remedies for your debilitating fever: pink guava juice will increase your platelet count. Dates are loaded with natural sugars and vitamins, and many dengue victims have reported improvement after forcing several down. Papaya leaves and juice are also speculated to improve a victim’s condition; however, there’s no scientific backing for this one.

The only proven method of recovery is rest and time, so bunker down with your guava and your bucket of ice and sleep it off. You’ll be bouncing back to your regular backpacking adventures in 4-10 days, and you’ll have a good old mandatory “sick & traveling” story out of the whole situation!

Preventative measures

The best way to avoid dengue fever is to avoid being bitten. Cover up in the evenings, use mosiquito repellent and sleep under a mosquito net.