I Have Dengue Fever, And It Sucks

Dengue Fever Symptoms

Sick with Dengue Fever

Sayulita, Mexico

The virus started with a fever, chills, and headaches. Suddenly my hands & feet erupted with red dots and began to hurt. I was infected with Dengue Fever & didn’t know it.

UPDATE: Great news! There is now a Dengue Fever vaccine that seems to be 100% effective in human trials.

Dengue Fever is a tropical virus spread by mosquitos. There is no cure or real treatment, and it kills over 25,000 people a year. It’s a serious disease that can leave you bed-ridden for weeks.

I first knew something was wrong when I woke up Sunday morning with one of my worst hangovers ever. The previous night I’d been out chowing down on delicious brain tacos and drinking with my friends Dave and Morgan.

A hangover would seem normal, right?

But I’d only had one beer and two margaritas. While the margaritas were strong, they weren’t THAT strong. This felt like I’d drunk a whole bottle of tequila and was hit by a truck on the way home.

My symptoms included pounding headaches that lasted all day, cold chills in 90 degree weather, and severe muscle pain all over my body. I was a mess!

Dengue Fever Symptoms

Bursting Capillaries in My Hands

Dengue Fever Symptoms

I spent a full day hiding in my bedroom under blankets with a fever-induced haze. I was sure the women behind the bar had spiked my drink with something. But why didn’t they follow through and take advantage of me??

At least then the hangover would’ve been worth it! Something didn’t make sense.

The next day my horrible fever was gone. The headaches were gone. I felt better. In fact I felt so good I decided to go surfing.

The waves were the best I’d seen them! But walking down to the beach barefoot with my surfboard is when I first noticed some new pain. My feet were really sore…

My fingertips hurt too. Trying to attach the GoPro to my surfboard was difficult, it felt like I was grabbing thumbtacks. After an hour of riding the waves I gave up. My hands and feet were in a lot of pain.

Dengue Fever Blood Test

Getting a Blood Test

Facebook to the Rescue

I knew something was wrong when I couldn’t tie my shoes because the pain was so bad. Red dots started appearing all over my hands and feet. I described my symptoms on Facebook asking for advice. A few people mentioned the possibility of Dengue.

So I borrowed a friend’s car and drove myself to the closest hospital the next town over. The staff sent me to the emergency room where I proceeded to wait for 4 hours in freezing cold AC while people puked up their lunch around me.

Compared to everyone else waiting for treatment, my ailment wasn’t an emergency. Locals streamed in with broken arms, legs, kids puking up yellow goo, and women in labor. Other than painful hands and feet due to capillaries bursting under my skin, I felt fine. So I gave up and left.

Dengue Fever Checkup

Dr. Mauro Breaks the Bad News

Testing for Dengue

The following day I drove 25 minutes to the town of Bucerias on the recommendation of fellow blogger Christine, whose husband had been infected with the disease. But the doctor didn’t have voicemail or a website, and it turned out he was closed from 2pm-6pm.

When I returned later that evening, he was still closed even though his sign said he should be open. Another wasted afternoon. Sometimes when you travel in foreign countries, simple tasks aren’t always that easy.

I returned yet again, this time in the morning, and described my symptoms to Dr. Mauro. He was a very pleasant man who spoke excellent English. He seemed doubtful it was Dengue, because most people suffer a lot more than I had. But he sent me across the street to have blood work done just in case.

An hour later I returned with the results. Dengue Fever.

My platelet count was low, but not so low that hospitalization was required. Severe cases of Dengue are called “hemorrhagic fever” and can result in internal bleeding, low blood pressure, and death.

Dengue Fever Treatment

Enjoying My Smoothie Prescription

Feeling Much Better!

The doctor told me I must have a very strong immune system to only suffer one day of fever — normally people are out for a week, or require hospitalization. There’s no real medical treatment for Dengue Fever other than rest, hydration, and lots of bug spray to prevent mosquitos from spreading the disease to others.

So over the last week I’ve been sleeping a lot while making sure to drink plenty of water and fresh-fruit smoothies. Papaya fruit in particular is rumored to increase blood platelets faster than normal.

I’ve been incredibly tired over the last week, but other than that I’m ok. My fingers and toes have healed up. No more signs of fever or headaches either. No rashes. My dengue experience was a mild one, and I feel pretty lucky. ★

UPDATE: Great news! There is now a Dengue Fever vaccine that seems to be 100% effective in human trials.

READ NEXT: Should You Buy Travel Insurance?

Are you afraid of getting sick while traveling?


  1. From what I see, it’s not dengue fever. It looks more like hand, foot and mouth disease or commonly called Singaporean flu. Especially u mentioned that the red spots appears on ur hand and foot.

      1. I had dengue 6 years back. I got the exact same kind of red dots when I entered the ocean. I also had a splitting headache. sounds right on.

  2. I contracted Dengue in Koh Tao back in 2006. With sudden onset for two days I got an incredible chill throughout my whole body that I can’t describe along with vomiting and diarrhrea (and i have had severe flu in the past). I was walking back from the hospital wrapped up in jumpers in the blistering heat. Hospital put me on a drip, and the next day I was due to travel across Thaliand to Kao Lak to pick up a liveaboard dive boat and expected to have to cancel the whole thing. Weird thing was, the next day it was gone. I was weak but made the trip and completed the dive holiday. No red spots or anything.

  3. You are right matthew. Papaya fruit is good to increase blood platelets faster than normal. I was infected twice by dengue and papaya was the only friend of my at down time.

  4. I had textbook symptoms of Dengue virus while in Maui recently (Nov 7 – Nov 14). Symptoms started on Nov 12…. I’ll spare you the gory details. I somehow made it home to CA. And straight to the hospital. I am baffled that no one at the hospital thought to test me for dengue after telling my symptoms to everyone. In short, they diagnosed me with bladder infection, kidney infection, bronchiti, and unusual vaginal bleeding. Received an antibiotic n sent me on my way. 2 days later I make an appointment with my doctor n get a chest xray. Diagnosed with pnemonia also. 2 days later i read about a dengue virus outbreak in Hawaii. After reading many articles n blogs about it, i self diagnosed myself. I think the real story here is why do CA not know anything about dengue. I am still suffering fatigue n skin peeling off my shoulder and arm and also menstrual cycle is all out of whack for the first time ever.

  5. I was suffering from Dengue fever for the past 15 days.First I had fever on 23rd of October, immediately I consulted the Doctor. He gave
    medicines and i was fine within two days. After that i had very high temperature on 29th morning it was nearly 104 degree.Again I rushed to
    the Doctor,he told me to take a blood test,reports came that I had typhoid positive,the platelet counting was normal so doctors felt safe and told me dengue
    negative. And then they gave me treatment for typhoid fever. After two days I had red spots on my hands and legs,I told the doctor about it,again I had to
    take a blood test and the platelet counting was 1.44 lac Dengue was positive since the normal range for Dengue negative is above 1.50 lac. Doctors
    stopped the treatment for typhoid because antibiotics will reduce the platelet counting. I was under complete rest and monitoring of platelet counting daily.
    Platelet count was fluctuating it went to 1.88 lac and suddenly it came to 79,000. Doctors told me that blood transfusion will take place if platelet counting
    goes below 50,000. But the counting started to raise gradually day by day and it came to 1.62 lac. Finally platelet counting came to 3.11 lac which made
    me feel better. Now Im perfectely alright,I got cured in just 15 days. This was because I went to doctor even when I had normal fever symptoms, I found Im
    affected by Dengue at the initial stage which made me survive now. Everyone must be aware to consult doctor when you have normal fever symptoms. A
    small advice to people suffering from dengue please drink a lot of water because the virus comes out in your urine, make sure that your output is fine. Try
    to drink papaya leaves extract which makes your platelet count to increase. Papaya leaf extract preparation method: take two papaya leaf remove the
    midrib of the leaf,tear it into small peices, pour one glass of water in a vessel and put the small peices of papaya leaf in it, leave it to boil untill the water
    turns pale green. If you want add salt for flavour, those who have high blood pressure please avoid salt. Hope my comment is useful and creates an
    awareness,Thank you. Fight Against Dengue.

      1. symptoms can be similar at beginning thats why they made me both tests in st lukes hospital in manila.make sure you have both tests done.plus the test which shows if you were infected in the past from dengue.cause many people dont get symptoms at all .

  6. Thanks for sharing your dengue experience, very similar to mine – only lasted a day and half, red dots, breaking bone sensation etc. I got in the Philippines, and I am headed to Oaxaca next. My question for all of you is: 1. I’ve heard that the second time you contract the disease can be much much worse, is there truth to that in your experience, and 2. mosquito bite prevention – it seems impossible. Bug sprey, bug nets, all that, any other ideas? Thanks!

  7. Hello, I just found your blog and read this post. I´m from the south of Mexico and dengue fever is a continuous health problems over here. My experience with dengue fever has been a very interesting one. I’ve had the disease 3 times in my life; each time I had different symptoms but the fever and the bones and joints pain remained constant.

    The first time I got the disease I experienced numbness in my whole body and had difficulty to move (standing up, walk, etc.) and in addition to that I started having problems to breathe. No need to say, I ended up in a hospital that night but the doctors were able to help me.

    My second experience with dengue, was a little less traumatic than the first one, but the pain was more intense (pain relievers like Paracetamol help me a lot).

    And then finally, the third time I got dengue, new symptoms appeared: palpitations, eyeballs pain (they also felt like burning), insomnia, nausea and lack of appetite. I assume it can strike in different ways depending on the persons health prior to the disease, but I’m just guessing, since I’m not a doctor. All I can say to everyone, its that you should take your precautions to reduce your chances of infection.

  8. Got DHF in Bali mid June. Now back home in Australia. It’s now almost September and I’m still exhausted.
    Very severe fever, pain, head aches. No vomiting or diarrhoea for the first 7 days.
    Thought I was dying.
    Dr didn’t diagnose for almost 3 weeks.
    It effected my liver, my white blood cells, platelets and I have pain behind my right eye and obscured vision with flashing lights.
    Hands and feet peeled around week 6.
    Still have red spots on soles of my feet.
    Still bad stomach cramps and constipated.
    Still have inflammation on my retina. But it’s slowly improving.
    But the fatigue is not letting up.
    Basically go to work come home and sleep.
    Anyone have any ideas on how long this will go on?
    Feeling very frustrated!!!!
    Will ensure I cover myself with Bushmans spray next time in a dengue area.

    1. Yes I got back from Maui Feb 10th its now April and have lots of pain in joints and muscle especially left arm. Im on Prednisolone, lots of pain in eyesockets. 2 months and still pain.

  9. The first time I was diagnosed with dengue was on my 4th grade and the second time was on my 9th grade. I do not remember the pain it caused me though but I know it was the reason why I hate being admitted on hospital because of injections and the worst thing that had happened when my blood rose and mixed with the dextrose. It was really terrifying! I do not know the underlying reason up to now.

  10. I contracted the fever 2.5 yrs ago. thought I had a Flu, went to the doctors after six days where she was astonished that my temperature was up around 40deg. No shit I was walking around in Singapore with a woolen jumper, does not make sense. Anyway I had the headaches, sweating like I never had done before felt like crap and very lethargic. The Doctor did the blood tests and my platelets were down so she was taking blood tests twice a day for seven days. on day 13 my platelets were below critical level and she was waiting for the most recent test to come back, she said that if I feel worse in anyway to get straight down to Changi General hospital where they would take over and probably do a full blood transfusion as this would be the only way to slow down the process and hopefully stop the process of bleeding out.
    Awesome, lucky for me the last test results came back with my platelets starting to climb back up. 2 yrs later looks like I have the bloody thing again, but after four days what seemed like a Flu I only have the fever so hopefully I do not have it again- see how the results of the blood tests go. Yes I am still in Singapore.

  11. Came across this while trying to figure out if i have Dengue. I live in Bali and feel so bad. The headache is the worse and the cold aching legs. Off to hospital soon for bloodtests

  12. Hi Guys,

    I catched it at Curacao, and got all the steps as well. First day pain in all my bones and muscles and a weird rash on my back and breast. Then the fever and nausea. I was/am super tired and so happy I got the “mild” one. Now I was wondering I heard also that if you catch it the second time chances of dying and getting more sick increase a lot. Now I am Dutch and we do not know anything here about it but it worries me. I am a traveler at hearth and just 26 years and full of traveling plans, however it scares me that the docter told me that if I get it a second time and it gets worse you get a 10% dying rate when you do not make it to the hospital on time. What are you experiences? I can imagine of someone lives in a dengue area that they still live their normal life so it should not be a reason not to travel anymore… Well hope someone had a similar experience to share! Hope a vaccination will be developed soon!

  13. Your post is dated but I’ve been online looking for food stuffs because I was diagnosed with Dengue this week in Bangkok. Found your post and decided to share my story. Mild case (comparatively) but following a timeline and symptoms not unlike yours. Out with friends…, drank a few too many but not so many…, well, like you told it. The next day felt like Armageddon then day 2 felt so badly I knew it was time to go to the hospital. Personal diagnosis confirmed by a medical professional.

    Have lived here 4 years and been lucky. Guess it caught up with me. The joints feel like they’ve been glued into immobility mode. Stomach has recovered but the first 2-3 days was not good. Have a few broken capillaries on feet but none on hands. The itching is bad and the headache directly behind my eyes feels like someone is trying to push my eyeballs out of their sockets!

    On the mend but can relate to your post and those who have posted after. My local fruit vendor on wheels should be by any time now and I’ll be buying a few pieces of Papaya. Blender positioned on counter in kitchen.

    Funny, I quip with friends back in US that the local mosquito is one of the most aggressive, elusive, able to cloak themselves into invisible mode like a Klingon Bird of Prey and they just laugh. The Tiger Mosquito is an insect to be reckoned with and care must be taken in the tropics!


  14. I got dengue twice in two consecutive years! My first time hit me really badly. I was losing hair and I felt very lethargic! Considering that I’m 15 this year, my immune system did a great job in my recovery. And I live in Singapore, a tropical country where mosquitoes are found everywhere.

    However,I heard that kiwi juice, papaya leaves and Chinese medicine are cures of this nasty infection!

    In Chinese, the fever is translated into inflammed bones, that we are very Heaty at that point of time.

    Everyday I live in fear or getting bitten again. Perks of living in a tropical country!

  15. You are so so lucky not to have suffered too badly with it, I was diagnosed on the 8th of April 2014, after a returning home from Bali the week before. I suffered really badly, to the point of 40 degree fevers for almost a week, excruciating bone stabbing pain, especially in my orbital bones, I could only sleep for the first week, barely able to walk the 5 steps to my bathroom.. Vomiting anything I did try to eat or drink, losing 6.5 kgs in the first week. The second week was almost as bad, my hands & feet swelled up, a rash completely covered my hands feet, arms & legs, so bad that I couldn’t walk or open or hold anything & was bright red.. That was 4 weeks ago now & the skin has just finished peeling off my hands & is is now peeling off my feet. I have never felt so terrible in my life ever.. GP said it was the worst case that he had ever seen.. Six weeks after onset and I still don’t feel right, I have good & bad days, get tired really easily & struggle to walk any distance at all, I get really short of breath… I wouldn’t wish this illness on anyone, it’s been a terrible experience & has effected my whole family, my husband couldn’t work, he had to care for our kids & for me. My kids thought their Mummy was going to die & were so scared to wake me or cuddle me, because I was so sick & sore.. Good luck for the rest of your travels… One bite can cause so many issues…

    1. Hi oreo79
      I too was in bali in may 2014 and came home to nz with dengue exactly with all the same symptoms as you was very scarey indeed I thought I was going to die.
      Now 5 months on I’m worried with the amount of hair I have lost and still losing, did you have this problem? If so how are you recovering now and has your hair grown again?

  16. I always worry about Dengue but maybe I’m not typically in an infected area long enough to really increase my chances. *Knock on wood* It appears as if it’s on the rise worldwide, sadly.

    Eating raw garlic (which has many other benefits) can keep mosquitoes away, along with rubbing citronella oil on the skin. Keep the spray with you though as some of the nastier mosquitoes are immune to these otherwise wonderful natural substances.

  17. You poor thing!
    A friend I was talking to last night had dengue fever twice. The second time her liver nearly shutdown and she was in a coma! Scary stuff. Glad you’re ok.

  18. hi !
    nice post ! i heard somewhere in India that papaya fruit is good for blood count and papaya leafs juice is another faster tip for in-cress plate late count rather then any thing else. Try it.

  19. Wow, glad to hear that it was not a severe case you had, that can be really serious. Sounds like it made you feel bad enough as it was!! Keep the bug spray on from now on just to be sure.

  20. Very funny blog post (not the part about you having Dengue!) I have heard people have died from this so when I read you were surfing and going about your day, I was very surprised, how IS your immune system so strong?

    Regardless glad you are getting better.

  21. That’s so terrifying man but i am glad you are okay. I never knew that mosquitos’ spread any other disease apart from malaria.

      1. of course!they kill 3 to 3 5 million people per year when the most dangerous animals few decades to few thousand!they are worse than any war ever.vanish them from earths face.thats my opinion!

  22. You poor thing! Many of my friends in Cambodia had Dengue fever and they all felt awful too. It is called the bone-breaker flu here, because your bones ache so badly. Glad you are on the mend again!

  23. Dengue sure isn’t something to play around with! Here in Matagalpa Nicaragua where I live there has been a major outbreak of it and there have already been quite a few deaths reported. Most of the deaths were older people and children but it is very sad and the sickness is not fun to have at all!

    The good thing is that the city officials here in Matagalpa are taking this dengue thing seriously and are constantly spraying and doing everything possible to try and kill as many mosquitoes as possible.

    I got sick one time here and I went to the doctor and they said it was dengue but I am not sure. All I had was fever aching and dizziness for about a week.

    It looks like what you had was pretty bad!

  24. Wow! Really glad you were able to overcome it so quickly. I’m prepping for a trip to SE Asia (Laos/Cambodia/Vietnam) and the vaccination doc scared the crap out of me with horror stories about malaria. Looks like you’re living proof that “deadly” diseases are always necessarily as bad as we’re led to believe.

    1. Yeah, something similar happened to me when I first left on my trip. Doctors at home seem to over-hype the dangers of foreign diseases. Sure they can be deadly sometimes, but most people who get them recover. It’s not the end of the world.

  25. Crazy, good to hear your immune system handled it like a champ!

    I ran into a couple of backpackers last year who had it. They were both out for about a week. Wild

      1. Hi, I got dengue fever on the 7th of september in Koh Phangan. High fever but not muscle pain, i just wanted to vomit. I’ve been 3 days travelling without knowing it was dengue, then i went to the hospital and have been there 6 days. I came out the 16th. During that time i just wanted to vomit, couln’t eat anything at all, just the food’s smell was terrible for me. So in the hospital they gave to me a pill to avoid vomiting. I’m still feeling so weak, sleepy, and i now have some muscles pain. Yesterday i went for a blood check, it’s not perfect yet.
        How long it will take to feel good? Is there something i can do to improve and make my recovering faster? wish all of you No dengue fever anymore argh! ;-)

  26. Being (really) sick on the road is one of our biggest concerns. Lucky to date we haven’t had anything more than a cold or a hangover (that’s a sickness right?).

    Glad you only got a mild dose. Nothing worse than being stuck in bed for weeks!

  27. Glad you’re getting better. Red dots on your extremities. Hmm. Smoothies are nice, but you really need a Moxie or two. There is nothing like a Moxie to cure everything. Lets not forget the poor mosquito, too. Probably writhing in pain from attacking a gringo. Everyone forgets the poor bug.

  28. That sounds terrifying, I honestly didn’t know Dengue was a possibility in Mexico. Glad you’re on the mend.
    Did you even remember getting bitten by the mosquito?

  29. Seriously, unless you’re hiding something you handled that LIKE A BOSS!! Fair play, luckily I’ve never had anything like it although I’m about to cycle into Malaria zone now in Africa eeek

    What were the possibilities had you not gone to the doc?


      1. BIG DIFFERENCE if you don’t get medical attention in time. Overwhelming dehydration, low platelet count beyond repair, permanent organ damage and death, which is often serious. To complicate situation further, blood tests do not always reveal dengue the first time, so seek other opinions and keep on trying if your illness persists. DO NOT DELAY seeking med help and keep at it if 1st result is negative. Definitely not to be taken lightly, despite the fact that I am aware of one Maya village near Calakmul where it is claimed nearly everyone has had it.

  30. Oh wow. So glad you feel better! I’ve read about Dengue some more after I saw your status on FB … Guess what: one symptom is hair loss! Just imagine! :D <3

  31. Glad to hear your feeling better. I have been following along. Stay away from the mosquitos in Costa Rica. Just hang out inside bars with A/C and you should be fine.

  32. Yikes! I’ve actually heard of quite a few people getting hit with Dengue recently. Scary stuff.

    But lucky you – it sounds like you didn’t have it bad at all! Glad to hear you’re feeling better.

  33. Oh no! Well at least you seemed to have a very minor case of it. I think I caught dengue a few years back after returning from a trip to the Dominican Republic. I had gotten mosquito bites, developed the rash and was just ridiculously sick with flu-like symptoms, but the doctor thought dengue was unlikely and didn’t test for it. I wonder if he just didn’t want to have to report it to the CDC if the test came back positive. It actually took me almost a month to feel well again. Now I practically bathe in DEET to avoid mosquito bites. Have fun in Costa Rica and glad you’re feeling better!

  34. Glad to hear you’re on the mend, my man. I’ll tell you what, when you decide to experience a country, you REALLY experience a country, LOL! Keep on keepin’ on, my favorite fellow vagabond!

  35. Oh man!! Sorry to hear about that. We’ve been avidly applying bug spray the past two months in Costa Rica to avoid it, but given the number of mosquito bites I have I’m just waiting for it to happen. We’ve actually met quite a few people here who have gotten Dengue, so if it’s any consolation, you’re not alone. Enjoy Costa Rica- we just got to spend a few days with Green Global Travel and enjoyed hearing more about EcoAdventure!

  36. I just got over Dengue in Mexico a few weeks ago…and like you I had no idea that that’s what it was until my hands and feet started itching like craaazy and had red dots all over them. I was pretty lucky too that mine was not the scary internal bleeding kind…yikes. Hope you are feeling all rested up!

  37. I see they didn’t put gloves on while taking your blood. How do they know you don’t have the HIV? Just sayin’…….they really trusted you!

  38. Good on you for having such a strong immune system!
    The first time I got Dengue I was unable to move for a week (and simultaneously had my heart broken – wow that was fun)!
    The 2nd time I too had a much stronger immune system and although it all but killed the first two stops of my recent European tour, I was right as rain after about five days.
    Apparently of the four strains you can get, two are worse than the others – often requiring hoapitalization. We got lucky! Ha ha.

    1. your immune system does not get stronger against dengue after you get infected the first time.actually you are in bigger danger everytime you get bitten!

  39. Crazy story, bro. Getting sick in a foreign land is my worst nightmare. Nicco, make sure you get shots for malaria, yellow fever, etc. before you go. It’s definitely a confidence booster.

  40. Thats horrible man, i’m glad you are feeling better! i’m travelling to South East Asia soon and am worried about picking up Dengue or Malaria. I’ve heard that after you get dengue once, its very dangerous, even fatal if you get it again. Do you know if there’s any truth in that?

    1. I wouldn’t worry about it too much, I think most of the deaths are children (which sucks of course, but you should be ok).

      Yes I’ve read that the 2nd infection can be a lot worse. But now I know what to look for! :)

      1. There is def a higher risk second time around and no, not necessarily kids are highly at risk. If you have pre-existing health problems like I do, I was being tested every day for signs of internal bleeding.

        There are something like 4 strains (at least here in Belize) and if you catch the same one, you are immune. If you get the others, that is the time to start worrying.

        You definitely got lucky with a mild case. Mine was considered mild and I was sick for over a month…I had it in August and still have residual issues, along with all my friends and neighbors who had it. At one point, the health dept had 19 active cases in my block alone.

        My fever was never high like everyone else here, but the pain in your bones and behind the eyes is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I lost 20 lbs in less than 2 weeks and was in bed for weeks. The strain I had is winding down when your hands and feet start peeling…literally the palms of my hands were flaking off and that was 1.5 months after contracting it. LOL

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