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Dengue Fever: What You Should Know

[fa icon="calendar"] Aug 11, 2020 10:00:00 AM / by Calvin Leong



Stop Dengue Sign Painted - Open Hand Raised, Isolated on White Background.

Dengue virus infection, also known as dengue fever or dengue, is an illness that causes a fever and other flu-like symptoms. It is caused by a virus that spreads to humans through a bite from an infected mosquito. Dengue is not spread from person to person (is not contagious).

Dengue haemorrhagic fever or severe dengue is a more severe form of the illness. This can cause dangerous complications if it is not diagnosed and treated right away. Very few people develop severe dengue.

What Are The Causes of Dengue?

Dengue is caused by any one of the four serotypes. The virus can pass to people who are bitten by an infected mosquito.

What Increases The Risk of Dengue?

You are more likely to develop this condition if you:

  • live in a tropical area where mosquitoes that carry the virus are common.
  • have travelled to an area where the disease is common.

Dengue is more likely to develop if you travelled to an endemic area or live in a tropical area.

What Are The Signs Or Symptoms of Dengue?

Signs and symptoms usually start between four and ten days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. They usually last for three to seven days. Symptoms of this condition include a sudden fever above 40°C and at least two of the following:

  • Chills
  • Muscle, joint, or bone pain.
  • Severe headache.
  • Pain behind the eyes.
  • Rash
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Swollen glands.
  • Bruising easily and mild bleeding from the nose or gums.

Severe dengue starts with a fever that usually lasts three to seven days. After the fever drops to below 38°C, new signs and symptoms develop. These may include:

  • bruising easily and bleeding from the nose and gums.
  • severe pain in the abdomen.
  • fatigue and restlessness.
  • low blood pressure.
  • trouble breathing.
  • vomiting blood.
  • blood in urine or stool.

Closeup portrait of miserable, upset, young guy, doubling over in stomach pain, looking very sick, isolated on white background with copy space. Human facial expressions,emotions, health issues

How Is Dengue Diagnosed?

This condition may be diagnosed based on:

  • A physical exam.
  • Your symptoms.
  • Your travel history.
  • Tests, including:
    • Blood tests.
    • Tourniquet test. This involves placing a blood pressure cuff around your arm for 5 minutes, then checking whether you have dark or red spots on your skin. Those spots can be a sign of the illness.

How Is Dengue Treated?

There is no specific treatment for this condition. Your health care provider may recommend taking steps to relieve symptoms, such as:

  • taking pain relievers that contain acetaminophen.
  • getting plenty of rest.
  • drinking enough fluid.

Severe dengue usually requires treatment in a hospital. Treatment may include:

  • receiving fluids through an IV.
  • receiving donated blood (transfusion).

dengue_blood transfusion

Follow These Instructions At Home:


  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • Do not take medicines such as aspirin or ibuprofen. These medicines can thin your blood. Ask your health care provider which pain-relieving medicines are safe for you.

General instructions

  • Rest as told by your healthcare provider.
  • Drink enough fluids to keep your urine pale yellow.
  • Take sponge baths to help cool your skin.
  • Do not use any products that contain nicotine or tobacco, such as cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and
          chewing tobacco. If you need help quitting, ask your healthcare provider.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.

How Is Dengue Prevented?

  • Take steps to avoid mosquito bites. To prevent mosquito bites:
    • Wear loose clothing that covers your arms and legs. Wear socks and shoes to cover your legs and feet.
    • Limit your outdoor activities.
    • Do not open windows unless they have window screens.
    • Sleep under mosquito nets.
    • Use insect repellent that has DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), 2-undecanone, or IR3535. Always read and follow the instructions that come with a bug spray or insecticide. Some products should not be used on children.
    • Treat clothing with permethrin. Do not apply permethrin directly to your skin.
    • Get rid of stagnant water where mosquitoes may reproduce. Stagnant water is often found outside in items such as buckets, bowls, animal food dishes, and flowerpots.

Get rid of stagnant water from flower pots, buckets, bowls and animal food dishes to prevent Aedes mosquitoes from breeding.

Contact A Healthcare Provider If:

  • The medicine recommended by your health care provider does not control your fever or other symptoms.

Get Help Right Away If You:

  • develop new symptoms after three to seven days.
  • have cold and clammy skin.
  • have red spots or patches on your skin.
  • become agitated or confused.
  • have very severe pain in your abdomen.
  • cannot stop vomiting.
  • have blood in your vomit, urine, or stool.
  • have bleeding from your nose or gums that will not stop.
  • have trouble breathing.
  • cannot drink enough fluids and start to urinate less often.

These symptoms may represent a serious problem that is an emergency. Do not wait to see if the symptoms will go away. Get medical help right away. Call your local emergency services (999 in Malaysia).


  • Dengue virus infection is an illness that causes a fever and other flu-like symptoms. It is caused by a virus that spreads to humans through a bite from an infected mosquito. It is not contagious.
  • Symptoms include a sudden fever above 40°C and at least two other symptoms, such as chills, severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle, joint, or bone pain, nausea and vomiting, swollen glands, rash, easy bruising, and mild bleeding from the nose or gums.
  • Severe dengue is a more serious form of the illness that can cause dangerous complications if not diagnosed and treated right away.
  • There is no specific treatment for dengue. Your health care provider may recommend certain steps to relieve symptoms or treat complications.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.


CDC: Dengue Case Management. CDC website. Accessed February 7, 2018. http://www.cdc.gov/dengue/resources/dengue-clinician-guide_508.pdf

CDC: Malaria: Malaria Information and Prophylaxis, by Country. CDC website. Updated January 26, 2018. Accessed Jul 14, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/malaria/travelers/country_table/a.html

Guzman MG et al: Dengue. Lancet. 385(9966):453-65, 2015

Mustafa MS et al: Discovery of fifth serotype of dengue virus (DENV-5): a new public health dilemma in dengue control. Med J Armed Forces India. 71(1):67-70, 2015

WHO: Dengue and Severe Dengue: Fact Sheet. WHO website. Updated September 13, 2018. Accessed Jul 14, 2020. http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dengue-and-severe-dengue


For more information on dengue fever, visit:

Centre for Disease Control And Prevention – Dengue in Malaysia

Ministry of Health Malaysia – Dengue Fever

Department of Occupational Safety and Health Malaysia - Dengue

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Topics: Wellness

Calvin Leong

Written by Calvin Leong

Calvin Leong holds a Master in Medical Education from the University of Dundee, United Kingdom. He is certified in Clinical Wound Care by the ASEAN Wound Care Association. Calvin has 20 years of clinical and lecturing experience focusing on Mentoring in Healthcare, Traumatology and Medical Sciences. Calvin is HRDC certified trainer. He is also a Life Member of The Malaysian Association for the Study of Pain (MASP) and the Malaysian Society of Wound Care Professionals (MSWCP).

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