Diagnosis

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

Certain laboratory tests can detect evidence of the dengue viruses, but test results usually come back too late to help direct treatment decisions.

Treatment

No specific treatment for dengue fever exists. Your doctor may recommend that you drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration from vomiting and a high fever.

While recovering from dengue fever, watch for signs and symptoms of dehydration. Call your doctor right away if you develop any of the following:

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

Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) can alleviate pain and reduce fever. Avoid pain relievers that can increase bleeding complications — such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve, others).

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

Preparing for your 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?
Aug. 08, 2017
References
  1. Bennett JE, et al., eds. Flaviviruses (Dengue, Yellow Fever, Japanese Encephalitis, West Nile Encephalitis, St. Louis Encephalitis, Tick-Borne Encephalitis, Kyasanur Forest Disease, Alkhurma Hemorrhagic Fever, Zika). In: Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2015. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed June 10, 2017.
  2. Thomas SJ, et al. Dengue virus infection: Epidemiology. https://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 10, 2017.
  3. Ferri FF. Dengue fever. In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2017. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2017. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed June 10, 2017.
  4. Thomas SJ, et al. Dengue virus infection: Clinical manifestations and diagnosis. https://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 10, 2017.
  5. Thomas SJ, et al. Dengue virus infection: Prevention and treatment. https://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 10, 2017.
  6. Dengue and severe dengue. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs117/en/. Accessed June 10, 2017.
  7. Symptoms and what to do if you think you have dengue. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/dengue/symptoms/index.html. Accessed June 10, 2017.
  8. Dengue: Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/dengue/prevention/index.html. Accessed June 10, 2017.
  9. Dengue vaccine: WHO position paper, July 2016 – recommendations. Vaccine. 2017;35:1200. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264410X16310192.
  10. Steckelberg, JM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 12, 2017.