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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.

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

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 Fever.

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. ★

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Are you afraid of getting sick while traveling? Have you ever got dengue? Drop me a message in the comments below!

Jo Magee

Sunday 26th of July 2020

You know if you have the paperwork to prove you had Dengue, you can get a vaccine for it (you cannot get the vaccine unless you have had it already)... Just saying...protect yourself from getting it again.

Rebecca Lynn

Wednesday 20th of November 2019

Thanks for the article! Good information. Glad you recovered well. I however don’t like when you say your “hangover” would have been worth it if indeed you were drugged and taken advantage of. This is a very real fear for all women (and occasionally men) and to hear a man make a joke about it is distasteful and offensive.

Silviu

Tuesday 13th of August 2019

I advise all people here without a positive testing for dengue should undergo a test because Zika has the same symptoms but with a much lower recovery period and no death threat BUT it will be very dangerous to have a kid in the next 6 months - 1 year. Zika was for many years misdiagnosed as Dengue. On the other hand there are 4 types of Dengue virus. If you first get infected with 1 type, for the first time, the disease is mild, like flu and sometimes it can go un-noticed (surprise, some of us might have had Dengue without even know it) and if you get reinfected with the same type you wont develop any symptoms because of immunity (unless there was a significant mutation in that virus type). On the other hand, if you will get infected with a different strain, you risk to get the complicated disease because your body will not produce new antibodies for the new type, considering it has already have "soldiers" for that bug. The vaccine seems to work only in case of a person who was already infected with a type, and as far as I know is no longer being given to people who don't have a positive antibody level for a previous Dengue infection. Good luck and travel safe - not stupid.

Meghan

Friday 12th of July 2019

My boyfriend is currently hospital with dengue fever. We are in Puerto Escondido and this is day 5 of him being in hospital with the symptoms beginning 8 days ago. The dengue has now caused hepatitis in his liver, meaning his platelets are decreasing every day. If they get any lower he will need a transfusion. As soon as he's discharged from hospital he will be returning to Australia to not risk catching it again. Scary stuff! Glad to hear you had a fast recovery. If anyone thinks they might have dengue, go to the hospital asap! We should have gone a day earlier but didn't realise what it was. The morning my partner got rushed to hospital was very severe, just lucky they rushed him through to emergency.

Tiina

Thursday 7th of February 2019

Consider yourself lucky! I was sick for 10 days, 5 if them in a hospital in Thailand very, very sick. This was piece of cake considering what was to come because I never really got better. I kept on getting sick, flulike symptoms and the fatigue was terrible. 2 years after I finally got a diagnosis:ME, due to a viral infection. Now, almost 4 years later I can say I'm myself again.I have been working 100% since last May. Dengue man. I am terrified of getting it again. I know had the type 2 that is the most severe so I kinda know what's to come second time around. I'm still not sure if I can ever go back to Asia.

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