Dealing with the Dreaded Dengue Fever

Profile picture of

View Profile All Posts
Written by: Sonia Hrynchyshyn

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


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.

Check out these top travel experiences


Big One – 26 Days Across Central and East Coast of Canada

from £800

26 days


Experience it all. Great outdoors, national parks, epic citiesm quant towns. Gaspesie, Laurentians, Algonquin, Bay of Fundy, and Cabot Trail....

Europe Tour with Gapforce

from £1,500

14 - 28 days

Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, N...

Don’t travel alone, join our fun group every June and July to explore Europe with our UK leader.

Toki 14-day tour of Japan

from £1990

14 days


From Tokyo's futuristic neon lights and the rice fields of Izumo, to Kyoto's ancient temples and pristine beaches of the...

Nippon 1-Month Tour of Japan

from £4520

30 days


From Tokyo's futuristic neon lights and Kyoto's ancient temples, to trekking through the forests of the mountain mystics and enjoying...

Yamabushi 16-day tour of Japan

from £2500

16 days


Not your average tourist experience, this tour is specifically designed for the nature lovers out there. See a completely different...

Southern Trans Oceanic Quito to Rio via Buenos Aires

from £2475

69 days

Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru

Explore the Amazon Jungle, Hike the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, view the stunning Iguazu Falls and spend time...

Colombian Adventure Cartagena to Lima

from £1895

39 days

Colombia, Ecuador, Peru

Experience the flavours, curiosities and contradictions of these three fascinating South American countries.

Andes and Amazon Quito to La Paz

from £1750

37 days

Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru

Experience the Amazon rainforest at first-hand in a jungle lodge, follow the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, stay overnight with...

Peaks and Plains Lima to Buenos Aires

from £1675

35 days

Argentina, Bolivia, Peru

From trekking in the mountains to dancing the tango, this trip has it all.

Tropics of South America Rio to Manaus via The Guianas

from £3175

57 days

Brazil, Guyana

Explore some of Latin America’s most vibrant and colourful cities, pristine coastline, rich and verdant landscapes and search for diverse...

Find more articles about travel health

[contact-form-7 id="4" title="Contact form 1"]