Diagnosis

Diagnosing dengue fever can be difficult because its signs and symptoms can be easily confused with those of other diseases — such as chikungunya, Zika virus, malaria and typhoid fever.

Your doctor will likely ask about your medical and travel history. Be sure to describe international trips in detail, including the countries you visited and the dates, as well as any contact you may have had with mosquitoes.

Your doctor may also draw a sample of blood to be tested in a lab for evidence of infection with one of the dengue viruses.

Treatment

No specific treatment for dengue fever exists.

While recovering from dengue fever, drink plenty of fluids. Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following signs and symptoms of dehydration:

  • Decreased urination
  • Few or no tears
  • Dry mouth or lips
  • Lethargy or confusion
  • Cold or clammy extremities

The over-the-counter (OTC) drug acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) can help reduce muscle pain and fever. But if you have dengue fever, you should avoid other OTC pain relievers, including aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve). These pain relievers can increase the risk of dengue fever bleeding complications.

If you have severe dengue fever, you may need:

  • Supportive care in a hospital
  • Intravenous (IV) fluid and electrolyte replacement
  • Blood pressure monitoring
  • Transfusion to replace blood loss

More Information

Preparing for your appointment

Preparing for an appointment

You'll likely start by seeing your primary care provider. But you might also be referred to a doctor who specializes in infectious diseases.

Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready, and what to expect from your doctor.

What you can do

  • Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
  • Write down key personal information. List your international travel history, with dates and countries visited and medications taken while traveling. Bring a record of your immunizations, including pre-travel vaccinations.
  • Make a list of all your medications. Include any vitamins or supplements you take regularly.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor. Preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time with your doctor. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out.

For dengue fever, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
  • What kinds of tests do I need?
  • What treatments are available?
  • How long will it be before I'm feeling better?
  • Are there any long-term effects of this illness?
  • Do you have any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend?

What to expect from your doctor

Be prepared to answer questions from your doctor, such as:

  • When did your symptoms begin?
  • Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • Does anything seem to make your symptoms better or worse?
  • Where have you traveled in the past month?
  • Were you bitten by mosquitoes while traveling?
  • Have you been in contact recently with anyone who was ill?
Nov. 18, 2020
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  3. Dengue and severe dengue. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dengue-and-severe-dengue. Accessed Oct. 26, 2020.
  4. Ferri FF. Dengue fever. In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2021. Elsevier; 2021. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Oct. 26, 2020.
  5. Wilder-Smith A, et al. Dengue. The Lancet. 2019; doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(18)32560-1.
  6. Thomas SJ, et al. Dengue virus infection: Prevention and treatment. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Oct. 30, 2020.