For someone who heads the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine's dengue research group, the news that her own child was brought to a hospital with dengue fever would come as a startling revelation-this mosquito-borne viral disease spares no one.
"The event made me even more passionate in making sure dengue is finally eradicated if not properly managed," promises Dr. Maria Rosario Capeding, who is currently supervising the final stage of Sanofi Pasteur's dengue vaccine clinical trial being done in San Pablo, Laguna and Guadalupe, Cebu.
Capeding says her child survived the ordeal by just taking the proper fever and pain medication as well as getting rehydrated. However, she admits that not all parents would do this, which is why despite the fact that it is treatable, some 500,000 individuals are still hospitalized worldwide, with 20,000 dying from complications.
Keep fever at bay
"Parents should remember to just keep the fever at bay. Constant and careful monitoring is required but should not overdo by giving too much paracetamol (aspirin is a no-no considering this other pain reliever and fever reducer may induce internal bleeding)," Capeding says.
The doctor adds that dengue patients only require vigilant monitoring, especially for warning signs that the fever may already be progressing to dengue hemorrhagic fever, where one could die from vascular permeability or dengue shock syndrome, a life-threatening circulatory failure.
"But majority of the patients will not progress to these two potentially fatal outcomes if the household only remembers to properly hydrate the patient. In fact hydration forms the core of nursing management of dengue fever," Capeding says.
But water should be the last option since a patient with dengue fever requires one that contains electrolyte minerals-magnesium, sodium, potassium and calcium-that must be replaced because these are the ones that patients lose when they sweat.
"People wonder why some doctors suggest that their patients drink Pocari Sweat. This is because as an ion supply drink, it closely resembles the dextrose, which is used to replenish vital minerals and nutrients lost during diarrhea and vomiting and other medical emergencies," says Kenneth Mercado, sales and marketing manager of Otsuka (Philippines) Pharmaceutical Inc., which distributes Pocari Sweat.
The importance of electrolytes
He explains that dehydration occurs when there isn't enough water and electrolytes to replace what's lost throughout the day. Electrolytes are important because they are what our cells (especially nerve, heart, muscle) use to maintain voltages across their cell membranes and to carry electrical impulses (nerve impulses, muscle contractions) across themselves and to other cells.
Capeding agrees that it is not unusual for doctors to give the drink to those suffering from dengue fever because it is one effective and inexpensive way to constantly get supplied with the much-needed nutrients.
"In general, the higher your fever, the more dehydrated you may become. If you have a fever in addition to diarrhea and vomiting, you lose even more fluids. If you can't get to a hospital, say you are in a far-flung barangay or in a disaster area, getting an isotonic drink would be a life-saver," Capeding advises.
Drinking too much water can lead to a condition known as water intoxication and to a related problem resulting from the dilution of sodium in the body known as hyponatremia.
Half a liter
"Hyponatremia is becoming more prevalent as participation increases and more novice exercisers are entering endurance events but it could also occur in those with fever and continues to drink plain water. Even if we don't run a marathon, we lose each day approximately two to two-and-a-half cups (450 to 600 ml) of water and important nutrients just going about our usual activities," informs Monica Cortez, Pocari Sweat assistant brand manager.
Indeed, in these days when dengue fever continues to rise-the Department of Health said the number of dengue cases in Metro Manila is about to reach the 20,000 mark, which is 32 per cent higher than the same period last year-the public is warned to expect the number to further increase once the flooding brought about by typhoons start to subside and carrier-mosquitoes begin to bite once more.
"While we are looking for a more permanent solution to fight dengue, I believe the best approach at the moment is for everyone to practice cleanliness of their surroundings, watching out for symptoms accompanying a fever, and of course, making sure the sick person takes medicines as well as water and electrolytes, as these steps alone could already save one from spending more money or avoid complications," Capeding reminds the public.